Fishbowl invited several QuickBooks experts to share their thoughts on the accounting software, industry, and more. The participants in this panel are:
- Beverly Lang, Senior Director of Integrated Services with Fishbowl
- Robin Hall, President & Principal Consultant of VARC Solutions
- Megan Bronson, Advisory Partner at Squire & Company, PC
- Nate Sorensen, Market President at NOW CFO
- Liz Scott, CEO of Accounting Lifeline
How Has COVID-19 Affected Your Accounting Business?
Bronson: They’ve continued to grow during the pandemic, especially their technology division. The nature of their consulting has changed to focus on economic stimulus programs and PPP. Cloud implementations and NetSuite uses have increased quite a bit, too.
Hall: They already had technology in place to allow for work from home. Having your books up to date is hugely consequential to getting PPP loans and other opportunities fast. Hosting QuickBooks in the cloud has also opened up new opportunities to businesses.
Scott: Many companies are looking to switch to QuickBooks Online, which happens to be her firm’s specialty. But leads are coming so fast, they’re too short-staffed to service them all. It’s a good problem to have, and she continues to help businesses navigate the switch from desktop to online accounting software.
Sorenson: His company has been mainly desktop-focused, but they’re enjoying the flexibility of working more online. Although the nature of the work changed, people continued to need his company’s services. So they have enjoyed good growth throughout the pandemic.
How Do You Determine the Best QuickBooks Solution for Customers?
Scott: Customers had an immediate need to be virtual, so they were just facilitating exactly what their customers wanted. Suddenly, they were the cool kids helping small businesses find new avenues of success.
Hall: They would often push hosting and backups in addition to their desktop solutions. More customers are now open to talking about those things and listening to all of the options that are available.
Bronson: A lot of people sought out her company’s services to help with getting government stimulus. It didn’t outlast the pandemic, though, so now they’re struggling to find other methods of funding.
Lang: It’s important for businesses to limit their PPP requests to only what they can take that they won’t need to pay back.
Hall: Banks don’t often look at the same kinds of in-depth reports that PPP loans require. She spent a lot of time educating them on those things. QuickBooks was wise to quickly come out with PPP reports and calculators.
Scott: Helping banks with PPP loans earned more clients by showing bank customers that her firm better understood their financial needs than their banks did. They’re not a tax company, but they make their accounting books tax ready.
Sorensen: There was a lot of confusion during COVID-19, so people would contact him with questions about what to do. They started doing webinars, teaching, and coaching to get them up to speed on government funding programs. Banks started sending them applications that they couldn’t handle. They now have good networking relationships with banks that send them referrals.
How Do You Help Clients Choose QuickBooks Desktop or Online?
Hall: About 60 percent of her clients are on desktop, and the other 40 percent are on QuickBooks Online. She specializes in desktop, while another consultant specializes in online. But they ask the same questions of every potential customer to gauge which solution would be right for them. QuickBooks Desktop is more feature-rich, but QuickBooks Online continues to improve and add more features.
Scott: She was an early adopter of QuickBooks Online, so that’s been her baseline for years. She experienced all of the challenges that come from being an early adopter, and now she’s a top expert in the field.
Sorensen: QuickBooks Online is a great solution for many people, but not everyone. They guide people to the software that does what they need it to do. It’s helpful to have both solutions available as options.
Bronson: Sixty-five percent of her clients use QuickBooks Online, while 35 percent use QuickBooks Desktop. If they’re dead set on using desktop, she encourages them to have hosting to make it easier to work with them remotely. She rarely tries to push desktop on someone who’s convinced they want to go online. Most of her clients choose QuickBooks Online Plus instead of QuickBooks Online Advanced.
Scott: In her experience, QuickBooks Enterprise users always choose QuickBooks Online Advanced. That way, they can use custom fields, tags, and other key features.
Hall: Fathom’s advanced and custom reporting in QuickBooks Online Advanced is also critical to people’s decision on which one to use.
Lang: QuickBooks Enterprise allows customers to do just about everything they want to do without needing to outsource to other solutions. So there are good reasons to use desktop. Hosting is still valuable for providing access to accountants. Right Networks is Intuit’s preferred hoster, though it’s not her preferred one. That’s Quarium Hosting.
Bronson: Quarium addressed every one of her frustrations with QuickBooks hosting solutions, making it an ideal product in her eyes. The Accountant Portal is a game-changer.
What Important Features Do Users Need to Know About?
Scott: Fathom is one of those. Fathom reports open so many possibilities to clients that they aren’t aware of.
Lang: It’s similar to QBAR. That is a great reporting tool in QuickBooks Desktop, but no one knows about it or uses it. It’s too difficult to use. But Fathom has done a great job of partnering with Intuit. Hopefully people will be willing to learn and use it.
Sorensen: Little tips and tricks help people use QuickBooks faster and better. Hotkeys in date fields and other areas of the software speed everything up.
Hall: She sends out a hotkey mousepad with her company’s branding to help clients and keep her brand top of mind. The Income Tracker is an underutilized tool. Teaching people to do collections from that helps them save a lot of time.
Lang: The Fixed Asset Manager (FAM) needs to be revamped, but it’s better than any Excel spreadsheet.
Bronson: She discourages clients from touching FAM because if they don’t know what they’re doing, they can cause trouble.
Hall: She lets CPAs handle depreciation and other advanced financial areas of FAM.
Lang: It’s helpful for tracking fixed assets, purchase dates, serial numbers, etc. to make life easier for CPAs.
What Is Your Favorite QuickBooks Online App?
Scott: The reason she loves A2X is because they listened to her ecommerce struggles, and they do everything she needs it to do.
Hall: She applauds developers who ask for what’s wrong with their software in order to make it better.
Scott: Rewind is another app that’s listening to us. They back up QuickBooks Online and Shopify, among other ecommerce platforms.
What Apps Do You Put in Your Partner Stack?
Bronson: The best way to build trust with her is to listen to her concerns and make a change based on them. She consults with Divvy, Data Ninjas, and Fishbowl because they want her input. We’re all interpreters of data. She helps software providers understand the data that she and other accountants need to see.
Hall: The best way to keep up with technology changes is to talk to each other. In-person conferences allow many people in the same field to share new apps they’re using.
Sorensen: The great thing about that is that those apps have already been tested and vetted in the real world by a respected professional.
Lang: They’ll tell you the good and bad, not just one side. Networking is incredibly helpful. Their community is tightknit.
Scott: It’s also important to know what’s not working. If two people have the same negative experience with an app, they figure out it might not be the best fit.
Sorensen: You’re never short on apps that integrate with QuickBooks. It’s important to determine if it’s usable and does what it needs to do. Fishbowl for inventory, Bill.com for payments, and Avalara for tax calculations.
Bronson: It depends on the client. If she doesn’t have an app in a certain area, she’ll research and find a good one. Many apps turn out to integrate with QuickBooks without clients knowing it. Instead of specializing in one app, she tries to offer a host of apps that can work for different clients. Divvy is a great solution for practically any business.
Hall: The main add-on she chooses to go with QuickBooks Desktop is Avalara. Tax rules are constantly changing, so she loves that they keep track of all that.
What Apps Do You Avoid?
Scott: There’s one company that has horrible customer service and doesn’t work with QuickBooks very well.
Hall: Without naming names, do they know about SDK means? How long have they been in business? Who else is using it? Brutal honesty between consultants is essential to finding good apps. Make sure you’re telling the product developer the negative, not just other consultants. If they won’t listen, then that’s their loss.
Sorensen: There are so many me-too apps that do the same things as other better apps. So you have to be careful which apps you select.
Have You Gained New Clients by Offering Great Support?
Hall: Apps need to offer education and resources to answer questions when clients need help using them. She wants apps that work as advertised, not necessarily ones that offer special deals. If apps refuse to offer support, she’s much less inclined to recommend them to clients.
Bronson: If a lot of other consultants have used the same app, you don’t have to worry if you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to use it. You can talk to them and find out what they think of it. Everyone is willing to offer honest feedback because they don’t want to be in a precarious situation.
Scott: The Cash Flow center is great for adding events, using a bar chart, and seeing what the future holds.
Sorensen: That’s one feature that clients wouldn’t necessarily use on their own, but they can be coached on how to use it. Then they’ll make good use of it. That’s one of the main jobs he has.
Lang: People don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s up to consultants to show them all the aspects of QuickBooks they might be missing out on. It would be great if Intuit would bundle consulting services with software packages. Then they would be able to help clients get started on the right foot and be lifelong customers.
Hall: Intuit makes a great accounting solution, but it shouldn’t downplay the essential role consultants play in educating users on how best to utilize QuickBooks.
Sorensen: You can drive a car in only first gear. But once you learn about the other gears, then you can really get going.
Lang: QuickBooks Live Bookkeepers can help with day-to-day operations, but they can’t help until a client is properly set up. That’s what consultants do.
Sorensen: Less than 1 percent of clients have set up their QuickBooks file properly. Once he fixes everything, they’re amazed at how much better it functions.
Bronson: There are a lot of YouTube videos that show you how to do things in QuickBooks. But that’s all very basic and generic. A consultant can show you how to do things that are customized to your company’s needs.
Sorensen: QuickBooks is customizable, so there’s no way to simply say this is the one right way to set up your file.
Hall: She uses analogies to explain things in QuickBooks. For example, a group is a Happy Meal at McDonald’s, while an assembly is a hamburger. You have to speak your clients’ language, not like an accountant.
What Are Your Thoughts on QuickBooks Time?
Scott: It was already a great product. So now that it’s integrated and there’s just one bill, that simplifies it and makes it even better. That change eliminated the ability to use it with some other solutions out there, but she’s still a fan of it.
What’s One Tip You Would Give for Selling/Supporting QuickBooks?
Scott: Value yourself. You’re providing a valuable service, so it’s okay to expect payment for it.
Sorensen: Become an expert at something that no one else uniquely knows. You’ll really stand out if you do.
Bronson: Be willing to learn. If you find something you thought was right for every client is actually wrong, be humble enough to change course. And when you find something exciting, keep going and learn all about it. You’ll inspire others with your passion.
Hall: Look up from your screen, and get out of your silo. Fight your introvertive qualities. Go to conferences and talk to other consultants to share what you do and find out what they do. Pick up philosophies from every conversation you share and every business book you read.
Lang: Work-life balance is important. She can serve her clients expertly and still have plenty of time for her family.
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Robert Lockard is a copywriter with Fishbowl. He writes for several blogs about inventory management, manufacturing, QuickBooks, and small business. Fishbowl is the #1-requested manufacturing and warehouse management software for QuickBooks users. Robert enjoys running, reading, writing, spending time with his wife and children, and watching movies.