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.

“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.”