On the first day of its third annual QuickBooks Connect user conference, Intuit announced the winner of its “Firm of the Future” contest: Hibbing, Minn.-based 24hr Bookkeeper.

24hr Bookeeper is a five-person firm owned by Karine Woodman that offers QuickBooks- and Intuit-centric bookkeeping, accounting and advisory services to between 60 and 80 clients.

Intuit also named three finalists for the award:

  • U.K.-based Hemingway Bailey;
  • Moore Details Bookkeeping, of Ontario; and,
  • New Wave Business Solutions, of Australia.

Contestants were voted on by the public, with more than 50 percent of the votes cast on social media, Intuit vice president of the Accountant Segment Rich Preece told the audience in San Jose.
All four finalists received a $5,000 prize; as overall winner, 24hr Bookkeeper will receive an additional $15,000.

“We were incredibly humbled by the sheer number of candidates and the caliber of the four finalists in this year’s competition,” said Preece. “Facing the future is not always easy, but we hope that by recognizing 24hr Bookkeeper as the global winner alongside the three finalists, we help inspire the others to catch up so they can pursue their best future possible.”

Contestants in the Firm of the Future contest should exemplify the pillars Intuit has identified as being crucial for forward-looking firms: being online, in the cloud, and technology-focused; using value pricing, instead of billing by the hour; and building deeper relationships with clients by offering more advisory services.

In an onstage interview, Woodman explained some of the things that set her firm apart, including the efficiencies her firm gathers from automation and working in the cloud: “We work smarter, not harder – both for us, and for clients,” she told the audience. “Accounting may be the biggest part of someone’s business, but it doesn’t have to be the hardest.”

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Staying committed to technology – even in the face of client reluctance – is critical: “I won’t work with clients if they’re not open to moving to the cloud,” she said. “I can’t do a good job if my clients aren’t willing to move forward with new technologies.”

She has also discovered unexpected benefits in value pricing: “Now I only have three pricing tiers,” she explained, “and it’s taken away all the negotiating with clients. I love it!”


UNIVERSALS OF SUCCESS

Besides all exemplifying Intuit’s pillars, the four Firms of the Future finalists are relatively small, with four to five staff. “The cloud means we can compete with the big guys, because we’re lean and nimble,” explained Alan Hemingway, founder of Hemingway Bailey.

They also all share an intense concern for and appreciation of their staff.

“It’s the team that gets you where you are,” said Hemingway.

“We’re trying to foster empowerment, empowering our team to look for innovation, said Moore Details founder Jennifer Moore, who used some of her prize money to fly a remote employee she had been working with for six months to QBConnect, so the two could meet in person for the first time. “There’s creativity to tap into in your team.”

New Wave Business Solutions founder Reuben Bergola, meanwhile, wants to go beyond empowering just his employees – he wants to use some of his prize money to begin work on a platform to allow bookkeepers and accountants to share knowledge, best practices, tips and strategies.

While the winners differed at first on the different ways they would spend their prize money, as good accountants, they all eventually agreed with Hemingway on the first thing they’d do: “Obviously, declare it.”

 

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