Heather Smith is the founder of a cloud solutions practice and author of 9 books. She's made it her mission to'educate accountants and in turn their clients about the cloud ecosystem and choosing between the 750 accounting apps out there. She knows all the tips and tricks to make sure you pick the right application for your firm. Most owners are overwhelmed with the choices out there, but there's a way to choose the best one for your firm. In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Heather Smith discuss:
- The future of accounting tech and how it could drastically change your practice
- The "team" secret to uncovering the best accounting applications
- Steps to get your team raving about your application choices
- Heather Smith Website
- Sign up for Heather's Newsletter here!
- Learn Small Business Startup in 7 days (Heather's book)
- Xero for Dummies (Heather's book)
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- How to create a tech ecosystem in your firm (interview)
- One trick to stop hackers for good (interview)
Where is Accounting Software Going in the Next 5 Years:Heather Smith, the self-proclaimed "hype girl for the online ecosystem", is a well-known pro in the accounting application's space. She advises and mentors clients, but is mostly notorious for her Xero trainings. In the next few years, she sees big changes coming to the industry as a whole. These are important for you so you don't implement a software that may not be around next year. First, she foresees more growing and testing in the space over time. Right now, over 750 accounting applications are sprawled across Xero, Quickbooks, Sage, and others. It's a lot to sift through. As more money and attention goes to the accounting space, new ideas will be brought in especially as technology advanced. The biggest piece she sees coming is a lot of buyouts and mergers. Large companies (think Intuit) are going to swoop in and splash money in the pot. If they don't buy out smaller companies, they will merge or set up deep relationships with them. This will all happen relatively fast. You've probably already felt the whirlwind we've seen the past few years in the applications space. Heather has some tips to adapt to the changing landscape.
How to Uncover the Best Accounting Applications for Your Firm:If you jump on board with an application, only do so if you plan to stick around for the long haul. Implementing is hard enough without playing leapfrog. That doesn't mean you'll have to update your systems every time you switch applications. Luckily, APIs (the configuration that allows multiple software pieces to communicate with one another and share data) are getting smarter and more efficient. Many solutions now allow you to digitally "unplug" from one application and "plug" back into another. You probably just want to know how to choose between the various applications. Here's an insider tip. Heather looks at and studies the actual team behind an application she likes. The reason is that she's looking for longevity. Is the team behind this application aligned with the accounting industry? Or, are they planning to jump into other industries? Meaning, are they going to be around the accounting industry for a while, or is this just a stop on the way to trying to branch into other industries? That move alone could severely affect the performance of the application for your accounting needs down the line. A second major tip to determine the best accounting applications is studying the application's customer support. Obviously, this isn't a ton of fun, but, unless you're so tech savvy you can actually debug software, you're going to want customer service in your corner. At Jetpack Workflow, we're a software company so we understand how often clients need help with navigating software and overcoming problems. On top of that, we still buy software to use for the business in addition to our software, so we are needing customer service for ourselves as well. Heather recommends definitely trying out their customer service before you get into a long commitment contract. Customer service is one of her #1 reasons for purchasing one software over another. There's nothing worse than having an urgent problem with your software package and customer service is non-responsive. Even if they have the best features, Heather will turn down a vendor if their customer service isn't up to snuff.
DAVID'S TIP:Many companies brag about their customer service being the best. In software, you simply can't take these claims at face value. We were recently choosing new software for our internal needs and one company was well-known for their features. So, we set up a call to demo it. They rescheduled. We set a new time. They didn't show. I was disappointed as I loved their product, but if they don't treat you well during the demo phase, what do you think happens later on?Once you've nailed down what accounting applications you want, how do you about implementing in the best way possible?
How to Implement New Accounting Applications and Get the Team Onboard:Most firm owners are overwhelmed with the choices out in the marketplace. If that sounds like you, you're not alone. Here's the first thing to think about: Don't try and implement too many new applications at once. This leads to disorganization and frustration for your team. Get your team onboard first. Before making any moves to implement, pull out the whiteboard. What I mean is get everyone who will be affected by the new application in a room. Listen to the ideas for what's working and how future workflow will look with this new application. Heather recommends getting buy-in from the team. Once the implementation starts, make sure you have a day set aside for training on just this software. After that, Heather recommends two more follow-up trainings to make sure everyone is comfortable and iron out inconsistencies in the workflow. Remember, you need to carve out this time. Implementation of a new software can take 6 weeks. After it's up and running, you need it to go for one full month and then pull data on how well it's working. It's only after the entire team is comfortable with the new application do you dare try and implement another.
DAVID'S TIP:As the firm owner, it's your job to train your employees or find the right person to be the go-to expert in the firm on the area. Because as you get more team members, you can spend all your days training new employees on software. You need a go-to expert inside your firm. Even larger teams could have multiple experts.On top of trainings, if you have features you'd like to see, you can prepare pitches to the application's team and see if it will make the rollout map. BONUS: These new applications you implement can also become a new service offering you give to clients. If you believe your clients can benefit from your new application, offer to do a whiteboard training with their team. Could be a whole new revenue stream! RELATED ARTICLES: