As ProAdvisors look for ways to expand their practices, many choose the route of specializing in a specific market niche like Legal, Real Estate or Non-profits. Others choose to support a specific additional product line, like Fishbowl Inventory or Method CRM. But a few others may select the route of becoming major ‘implementation specialists’ taking the basic core of QuickBooks and combining it with a multitude of products to meet the specific requirements of a business. These are the target audience for whom Jim Savage and Robin Hall intended the first ever ‘Consult-a-thon’ held this past June at Scaling New Heights to reach.
Maybe you need to implement a manufacturing solution supporting 40-layer deep Bills of Material, like MISys, as an expansion to QuickBooks Enterprise. Then you need to incorporate a multi-channel shopping-carts, as the sales resource for the manufacturers finished goods and component parts using a product like Webgility. What about managing the complex shipping requirements? Add ‘ShipGear’ into the mix, and then some specialized reporting by tagging on Crystal Reports. This is exactly the kind of real-world situation that ‘implementation specialists’ deal with every day. It is also the kind of implementation that Consult-a-thon was designed around to help novice ProAdvisors become prepared to handle.
Consult-a-thon was not only moderated by Jim Savage and Robin Hall, but it was the brain child of these two long-term ProAdvisors. According to Robin her inspiration behind the Consult-a-thon was a mixture of the television influences of Top Chef and Shark Tank. She went on to tell us, “I started watching Top Chef about the 2nd or 3rd season. I’m not wildly adventurous when it comes to eating, but presentation and business challenges features on Top Chief are very intriguing. I love the ‘games’ that are meant to make the contestants think outside of their comfort zone.”
In challenge shows like Top Chief the judges force contestants to take the ‘game’ to the next level. They must prove themselves well beyond the normal chef and they must think outside of the box in order to compete against others of equal capabilities, but with perhaps a little different mind-set. Robin said she views such competitions as “testing who can adapt and rise to the challenge, keep their cool under pressure, work not only independently, but also as a team member.”
Top Chief was not the only driving force for Robin’s conceptual contributions to Consult-a-thon. Shark Tank also played a role. She told Insightful Accountant, “these 4 or 5 highly successful investors, or “Sharks”, wanted to help a new guy, but that budding entrepreneur had better know their stuff and be prepared to have more than just an idea. The ‘Sharks’ demand numbers, goals, facts, evidence, proof, real-life cases, and then even more facts. The reality was that the “Sharks” knew that whatever the person was selling, it was actually the entrepreneur that was the true investment, not the product.”
When I first had a conversation with Jim about Consult-a-thon several months before the inaugural session, we talked about the similarity of the ‘concept’ with Donald Trump’s Apprentice television series. The primary difference being instead of two teams performing several projects, it would be several teams performing only one or two projects. In the end there would still be winners, but another difference would be that everyone who participated would come away with an awesome experience in which they learned new skills, and more importantly a new way of ‘putting it all’ together.
Robin and Jim both have highly successful ProAdvisor Practices that go ‘well beyond’ QuickBooks. Their success and their experience made them not only the inspiration for, but the perfect hosts and moderators for this unique, never before offered, experience. Each of them wanted to take all their experiences and talents and share them in a way that would benefit those that participated, so the truly ‘hands-on’, to the max, sessions were birthed at this past June’s Scaling New Heights.
In the end, the Consult-a-thon experience consisted of 9 sessions held over the entire 4 days of the Scaling New Heights conference. It was indeed way more than just a series of ‘how to’ lectures, it truly did “involve” the attendees working as project teams to develop their unique solutions to a real-life business requirement using the various technological and service offerings provided by vendors participating in the conference.
The Consult-a-thon Project-teams had to do everything from identify the needs of the business to examine potential technology alternatives. Then they had to design their solution and prepare a plan so that they could present it to the business owners (another role Jim and Robin played in the experience) as they would to a real client. Regarding the Consult-a-thon learning experience, Tanisha Howard-James, a member of the winning team, said, “…it was everything I wanted and certainly want to learn from my classmates, their best practices so that I hone skills and likewise pass it on.”
Joe Woodard congratulates Consult-a-thon winners.
All of the Consult-a-thon teams did a great job and it was extremely difficult for a winning team to be chosen, but after great deliberation, the team consisting of Jennifer Adamy, Mittchelena Meade, Karen Zuppa and Tanisha Howard-James were congratulated by Joe Woodard and given a exclusive prize redeemable at next year’s Scaling New Heights conference.
In the end, Consult-a-thon was a great success, especially for a first-time event. With Jim and Robin continuing to drive this ‘mega-learning-environment’ in the future, you can be assured that it will not only meet the goal of forcing the participants to think outside their typical ProAdvisor scope, but adapt and rise to the challenge of accomplishing something extraordinary.
P.S.- Woodard Events will offer another Consult-a-Thon as part of Scaling New Heights 2016 in Atlantis. The Consult-a-Thon will take place on May 20 and 21 (the Friday and Saturday before Scaling New Heights. You can enjoy the same room rates as the conference for your extended stay (as low as $149/night). For more information about the Consult-a-Thon, contact Woodard Events at firstname.lastname@example.org.