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Be a Pro Advisor, Not a Potty Trainer

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Small businesses outnumber their larger brethren, creating more jobs and about half of the total GDP—and also have the “stinkiest poop,” according to QuickBooks consultant and advisor Joe Woodard, who discussed the history and challenges of working with those clients in a general session Tuesday at the Scaling New Heights conference in San Antonio.

Joe Woodard

“Scooping the poop of small businesses has defined the pro advisors industry,” Woodard told attendees of the event for QuickBooks ProAdvisors and Intuit Solution Providers June 15-18.

Likening the ability of these clients to do their own accounting with the ease of potty training cats, Woodard outlined the history of small business owners handling their financial...“mess.”

The dawn of microcomputers led to a migration of these businesses from accounting professionals to bookkeeping software or, according to Woodard, away from accuracy and non-real-time services to real-time, non-accurate numbers.

Outsourced bookkeeping services later emerged as a way to bridge the gap, but a bit ahead of its time: “One step ahead, you’re a leader—10 steps ahead, a martyr.”

Reflecting on the failure of that model, Woodard pledged his faith to the emerging one of business process outsourcing, declaring, “we believe this one will stick; the holy grail of real-time and accurate financial information in a model [with which] the industry can thrive.”

Woodard outlined what exactly makes BPO different:

  • The evolution of cloud technology
  • Ubiquitous access to internet
  • The automation of front-end and data-entry processes
  • The elevation of the model from record keeping to trusted advisory services

With BPO, Woodard continued, advisors can provide the following necessary services:

  • Maintaining the technology stack
  • Completing and organizing the data
  • Validating and verifying the data              
  • Interpreting the data

That last value-add is “the part I’m most excited about,” Woodard enthused, adding that his response to advisors who claim they cannot fulfill that service at a high level is: “Yes, you can!”

“I don’t want this industry anymore to sell ourselves short,” he said, to enthusiastic applause. “For the last century we’ve been the backbone of this industry, the unsung heroes, the brunt of late night jokes.”

Instead, pro advisors can provide a critical bridge in the gap between financial software systems and small business clients.

While this software serves to “interpret the data for us, we interpret the interpretation,” Woodard explained, confirming that, yes, “clients still need an interpretation of the interpretation.”

“Pro advisors provide strategic contextual thinking,” Bill.com CEO René Lacerte later agreed when Woodard brought him onstage to provide a vendor perspective. They also play a role in the collaboration that “is at the essence what the internet has become,” he continued, from the popularity of social networks to cross-platform integration to the open APIs of almost all cloud-built companies.

Also, Lacerte added, as a place for Woodard to find the cat pictures accompanying his earlier litter box metaphor—a visual Woodard urged the crowd to leave behind in seeking and advising ever-valuable “mess-less clients.”

5 Comments

I use to have monthly accounting clients whereas I would pick up from the client bank statements, cancelled checks, cash payouts, etc. and produce over the next couple weeks a balance sheet, p/l, general ledger, and bank reconciliations. This was up to the year of 1993, when a certain client threw a disk at me and asked to me learn and set up on their computer a data file that would allow them to do their own a/p, a/r, p/roll and all the management tools and forms, that the new data file could produce. That disk was quickbooks. As much as I fought the idea, I gave in, and about 3 thousand dollars later I became an expert (at their expense by the way). Not just a data entry expert, but one that had accounting, income tax, and data entry experience at its finest. They had a very extensive list of vendors, customers, and inventory. It was perfect. Shortly after getting to that point, Intuit was beginning to offer a "pro advisor program" for 25 dollars a year based on your zip code, you received calls from clients wanting to use quickbooks. Within 6 months I had obtained so much business that I had to shut off the PRO ADVISORS program and just deal with the referrals I was receiving. I credit Intuit for the success of my business today! because of the software that generically fits just about any business. Not to mention I have worked with payroll software from many companies, and Intuits flexibility from within their product far exceeds any other companies including Paychex, and ADP. Ask any W/C auditor, they will tell you the same. I am a one man show, and have locked out any new clientele now for a few years, and credit more than anything again, to Intuit. Yes the clients can produce junk G/L's on a regular basis but after a while you start to figure out how many areas your able to produce income from that one client. Normally I can set up any client using quickbooks in about 3 hours. That includes 2 hours of instruction running the product, really, that's it, and an 8 hour class only confuses the client that much more, what a joke that is!

Posted by: danmatthews | June 18, 2014 10:03 PM

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Making sense from financial information has been a specialty competence for years and will remain so for years. And that is where the opportunity will ALWAYS be. The challenge is to reach the interpreting stage as previous two steps i.e. Completing and organizing the data Validating and verifying the data, require time and everyone is so busy already. And this is where the shared services model steps in. You do NOT have to do it all yourself. You can get it done for you.

Posted by: hitendra@pransform | June 18, 2014 1:53 PM

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I am offended by Joe Woodard's language and analogies!

Enough said.

Posted by: Pewsbury | June 18, 2014 1:35 PM

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I like working with the little guys who want to do it themselves but just need a little help to do it right. Most accountants have priced themselves out of the market for the little guy just starting up who can't afford to pay $100 an hour.

Posted by: ShortStuff | June 18, 2014 1:17 PM

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"Poop Cleaners." This is what our profession has come to. Cute talking points but the reality is that Intuit has convinced most small business owners that professional accountants are unnecessary and overpriced. Thanks. :-(

Posted by: Thomas D | June 18, 2014 1:11 PM

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