My name is Peter Cullen. I am a ten-year QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor, and when I am most being myself, I am evangelizing Accountants, Bookkeepers and QuickBooks Consultants, with the following message - that because of our ability to get very close and personal with our clients and their business and personal finances, that there is a tremendous demand for a different type of practitioner. Different because of the way we can look at our Customers (I call them Customers – as I believe it is our privilege and custom to serve them).
What am I talking about??? Well, this is where the story gets good. I started in the Accounting industry in 1982 posting proposed Adjusting Journal Entries using a Pentel pencil on 32 column paper (does a green eyeshade pop into your imagination? ) while an Auditor for Touche Ross & Co, in their Orange County office. I literally thought I had died and gone to heaven as their OC office overlooked Fashion Island in Newport Beach and Balboa Bay. Touche Ross….. who is that? Well, they were one of the Big 8 Accounting firms at one time. Touche Ross merged into Deloitte in 1989, and as the story goes, now there were four. Ironic twist to the story, our youngest son Jack, a June 2014 UCSB Accounting grad (Go Gauchos !) is in the Deloitte start class this September in downtown LA (good luck with that traffic Jack). I encouraged all four of my sons to consider accounting as a career path, and succeeded with only one.
I went on to have two different careers (first for eight years an external auditor performing attest functions and then for nine years as a Controller for a technology audit client of mine), before starting my own practice advising entrepreneurial start-up CEOs as their outside Accountant and CFO.
There have been some critical learning points along the way. I’ll summarize them here (I believe you all know them well) – Accounting and Financial Reporting gets messy quickly (duh!), especially in Small Business; Accountants and Bookkeepers value their work product much more than our clients do (I do not believe it is possible to overstate this); thirdly, 100% accuracy, attention to detail at all levels, and tenacious follow-through are expected by our clients, and not necessarily considered a key differentiator (even though we might). And here is the final and most important point that has completely changed my customer relationships, and will do the same for you, Our customers need our advice on what in their business is working right and what is not, they desperately long for a business partner to come alongside them, roll up their sleeves, and offer insight, objectivity, analysis, and possible solutions to consider and stack rank as if you were a Board Member. You notice I did not mention answers - -funny because for the longest time my anxiety working with customers was due to the fact that I presumed they were looking to me for on the spot answers to their problems and I was always struggling to come up with them, oftentimes as the words were spilling off my tongue !!! As an aside, customers do ask us for answers, do not get me wrong, but when we start trying to answer questions without first knowing what the right questions to ask are, then that my friend, is a rat hole I choose to visit no longer.
Fortunately, Intuit is an excellent business partner for all of us ProAdvisors. They build excellent products that enable us to deliver on the promise of being a trusted business partner for our customers. They also deliver cloud solutions that accommodate end-to-end efficiency in our practice workflows and delivery of important customer work products, such as financials, tax returns, payroll, cash flow statements, lease vs. buy, consolidated reporting, Sales by Customer by Territory, the list is endless. I can go on if you want. So it is not a stretch to say that Intuit has made it possible for us to design, deliver and fulfill our goal and objective as well as essential role to play in helping business owners succeed where so many are unable to.
So evolving from record keeper (let’s be honest and admit it) to key advisor is actually a pretty straight line. What does it take? …. I will tell you – you need to be the one who is ready and willing to be not only a super problem-solver (this one is natural for us) but also to step into unfamiliar territory and begin crafting a different dialogue and relationship with your customers. One that is based on your availability, willingness, and desire to take on your Customer’s business issues as if they were yours. When you can craft the narrative around openly, honestly and sincerely addressing the significant business financial and operational challenges that your Customers are facing, and offer tangible and thoughtful solutions in the role as business partner (not Accountant, or Tax Advisor, or Bookkeeper) all the while maintaining your natural fiduciary nature, then they will be inclined to solicit your opinion, your advice, and bring you into material discussions about the future of their business and family finances.
So I encourage you to get going!!! Try it out, you really do have excellent insight about your Customer’s business finances, you just need to transition your role to one of looking ahead, and peering into the future, alongside your Customer. I will let you in on another key insight that is right around the corner from all of us. The role of Record Keeper is being marginalized all the time. The days of making a good living by filling out forms is on the wane. But not for us brave souls who are ready to make this important evolution! At SNH, Joe (Woodard of Woodard Consulting and Scaling New Heights) called it a Paradigm shift. He was right !!!
I hope you have enjoyed finding out a little more about me, and I look forward to reading your story as well. Let me know what you think.
Editor’s Note: Peter Cullen is a QuickBooks ProAdvisor in Newport Beach, CA. He is a member of Intuitive Accountant’s Top 100 ProAdvisors for 2014, and recipient of Intuitive Accountant’s 2014 Business Process Outsourcing Award recognizing the ProAdvisor who has built their business around a BPO model.