Offer Your QuickBooks Clients More Than They Expect…and Exactly What They Need
Webinar Transcript from – February 27, 2014
Intuitive Accountant recently produced the above mentioned web seminar in conjunction with Lexis Nexis. The Web Seminar was hosted by Joe Woodard and included Lexis Nexis’ BJ Schaknowski and practicing ProAdvisors Dawn Brolin, Caren Schwartz and Jim Beddow. We thought you might find an abbreviated version of the transcript useful since everyone does not have 60 minutes to sit in on a web seminar. We’ve separated the Wheat from the Chafe and provided the key take aways for you in the write up.
WIth that said, this is a transcript so it is VERY LOOOOOOOOOOONG, so be prepared!
If you would like to listen to the complete archive of the event, you can listen to it by clicking here. Lexis Nexis is hosting a follow up event to provide a deeper dive into the product and opportunity in certification on March 25. Click here to register.
JW: The purpose of this web seminar is to talk a little bit about providing the right mix of services and solutions for your client. And, you know, we know in the way we have empowered channels through our entire careers, ProAdvisor channels. You were with Sage for a while, you were with Intuit and are currently with Lexis, where you are tasked with growing the “channel”. If an accountant leaves their practice to just providing services, and not supporting software, what kind of an opportunity are they missing there, and why should they add a mix of solutions consulting to services?
BJ: The bottom line in channel development and the opportunity with Lexis is that companies of all sizes are looking for that trusted advisor who can come in and consult more on just one simple function. So for example, there is an opportunity for, whether it’s ProAdvisors, accountants, IT services folks, the reality is these small, medium size businesses are no longer general, they’re typically experts in one discipline. Lawyers typically make reasonably bad business people, and as a result one of the things they’ve gotten pretty good at is depending on outside support and services to help them better run their business. If you are only offering accounting or bookkeeping services, you're leaving money on the table, because if you think about the opportunity there, what they’re really looking for is workflow consulting. They’re looking for practice management consulting. So the opportunities for today’s ProAdvisor goes far beyond just simple accounting services. You also want to be able to bring best in class solutions to your customers. It will help you get the credibility, it will help them make sure that they’re spending their hard-earned capital wisely, and really not only find the right software, but through your services combined with the software recommendation, installing it the right way that actually provides for them a positive business outcome. So, if you're just doing one service, you're likely to not only leaving money on the table for yourself, but also potentially doing your client this service based upon the wisdom and practical knowledge you can provide them.
Joe: Well, that’s put very, very well. Most of the folks, if not all of the folks on this call, and 99% of the people that go Scaling New Heights are QuickBooks ProAdvisors, and they’re usually fairly engaged ProAdvisors at sort of the core of the heart of that Intuit opportunity. A lot of them tell me, “I'm just fine with QuickBooks. I don’t need to do QuickBooks and something else. I'm good where I'm at.” How are they missing out on an opportunity?
BJ: Well, and what I don’t want to do is overly segment the market, right. There are a small percentage of folks who, that’s their sweet spot, that’s their niche, that’s where they have the capability and competency, and that’s where they should play. I think the reality is knowing the ProAdvisor community as well as I do, and I have throughout the years, there is just such an opportunity to provide so much more to the client than that which QuickBooks does. Now, I'm a massive supporter of QuickBooks. I am still a stockholder Intuit, and boy am I happy about that these last few years. But at the end of the day, if you think about QuickBooks, it really is the hub in the hub and spook model. Alright, if you think about the back office that it provides, when you begin to think through all the various workflows that many of our customers need, and I’ll use the legal category where I'm now, as an example, you know, lawyers who can’t do time and billing are in big trouble. And if they’re not connecting their time and billing in their back office financials, now only are they inefficient, but they're going to be losing money. They're not actually be invoicing appropriately. Their workflows are going to out of whack. They're going to be hiring too many office staff and spending that hard-earned capital on a variety of functions and services that they could otherwise automate. Having the spoke, the variety of best in class, best in breed products, that complement the QuickBooks core is really not an option. I think it’s no longer even a luxury, I think it’s the expectation that many clients and customers are going to have of that community.
Joe: I really like what you said about longevity. The reality is, if our clients are successful enough, they are going to get too big for QuickBooks by itself. And by tacking on very powerful industry specific solutions, like Method, like Fishbowl, like Time Matters, by attaching these vertical and scalable solutions to QuickBooks, you can keep them as clients longer and you can also help them to, quite frankly, save money. We are professional service providers ourselves, we’re accounting professionals, bookkeepers, tax preparers, but sometimes even though we are in that industry, we find it challenging to provide services to others who are in that industry. How can we best help our client to a professional service in the professional service industry? How can we best reach them?
BJ: I have a couple of questions there. Let me actually…I’ll take the first one about how to best help those who specialize in professional services. I think if you look at some of the glaring gaps that small, medium size pro services firms have, it is around basic workflow automation. The reality is they spend an exorbitant amount of their time where they could be billable on back office infrastructure with many manual things like data entry, right. Some of the more core, what I’ll call, lower end transactional opportunities around billing and invoicing, and the reality is as you all know, as billable professional services or owners of billable professional services firms yourselves, ever hour that you are unbillable, right, it is opportunity costs you are losing. You're losing revenue every single hour that you, yourselves, are doing something that is not client facing. So, your ability to leverage application and workflows and basically infuse those into a successful, or even a struggling firm, it’s going to go a long way towards really helping them drive better outcomes. And at the end of the day, many of you remember, I keynoted one of Joe’s conferences years ago, and there are a lot of folks in the room. I asked the folks to raise their hand and say what’s the core mission of your business? And if you guys who were there remember a lot of folks raised their hand and said, “It’s providing exception customer service.” And I said, “That’s real interesting, but it’s not right.” Others said “It’s having a great relationship with my customer.” No, also really interesting, but it’s not right. And I think it was Mario or somebody in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “Well, the mission of my business is to make money.” And so often professional services firms get caught up in the engagement, that they neglect the final…the most important outcome of their business, right. Everything else is a “how” the “what,” right. It’s you do it through relationships, you do it through providing extraordinary customer service, you do it through having integrity, but the “what,” unless you're a non-profit, right, is creating a sustainable profitable business. And what you all do as professional services experts, and workflow experts, and business application experts, is go in and show others in the professional services field how to actually turn a profit better than they, themselves, could do.
Joe: All right, so I really, really like where you went with that, because I’ll tell you, you're a realist with that. It’s not just about us making money, that is…I mean if we don’t do that, we won’t survive. It’s about us helping our professional service clients to do the same. If we’re about that and we help them to successfully be about that while we’re also taking care of our clients, I mean then they’re going to write the check that matters. They're going to see the value. They're going understand the investment. And, they’re going to pay us what we’re worth. Time Matters serves the legal marketing and Lawyers have a reputation in the industry for being cheap. As a ProAdvisor, if I'm going to adopt as a target market the legal industry, how can I get around: first is that perception reality? And second, how can I overcome it? And third, what are the solutions I need to have in place to service them?
BJ: Joe, as an executive of LexisNexis, how dare you question the frugality of my customers? Clearly, we do not have 1500 sales people in North America that experiences every single. I mean here is the realty, and I'm going to do something dangerous, which I hate doing, but you know, it is what it is. I'm going to generalize the category. What I will tell there are 450,000 law firms with basically 100 employees or less, and I think 400,000 of those basically have ten attorneys or less in North America. There are so many times when you're working with a smaller law firm, as a buyer, as a customer, you're actually dealing with a lawyer. You're not dealing with an executive director, you're not dealing with the COO, you're not dealing with a CEO, who basically has an MBA in some degree in business apps. You're dealing with professional attorney. They are typically outside of their core competency. Most of these folks train for years to negotiate. So there is a high degree of ego involved in the buying cycle from this customer sector. Now again, I'm really generalizing and profiling a lot of this customer base with reality. Here’s what I will tell you, attorneys, egos that they have, in my experience, and in LexisNexis’ point of view, however, are reasonably self-aware, and they do know, for the most part, that they’re not MBAs. They may consider themselves extraordinary tax attorneys, litigators, you know, divorce lawyers, whatever it may be, most of them know they’re not business people. But the reality is, if you approach a law firm with hard ROI that says you save X-hours through automation and you bill it X-rate or Y-rate, it will effectively yield you this amount of return, they will typically respond very well to that.
Joe: All right, so that’s a really good point. Focus on the value component and then come back and do the psychology with the game, you know, mark it up like the car dealers do, come down a little bit. What kind of problems are they try to solve?
BJ: Yes, sure I can give a couple of those. Time Matters actually helps lawyers prevent malpractice claims related to administrative and client relation errors. So the reality is 44% of 2012 malpractice claims were literally related to administrative and client relation errors. If you can eliminate or reduce those errors, if you can oversee scheduling and deliverable interactions in automated central location, you can actually go back to the attorneys and say, “What if I reduced your malpractice claims by 50%, or 75%, or 80%?” Let them do the math. And then, at that point, they can see that the benefit of centralization on the automation yield those positive business outcomes that we referenced earlier.
Joe: Okay. Now, I'm going to ask you to talk about your product a little bit. Give me three or four features of Time Matters where if the folks on this call were to consult on it, they could accomplish those goals with their legal clients.
BJ: Time Matters will help you centralize case and matter information, streamline process you can capture more billable time. To law firms, that information is the Holy Grail. It’s anything and everything related to a specific matter. And so, their ability to track, report, and automate against that matter, it’s critical to them having the right billing schedule in place; making sure their AR is efficient; making sure that there are no errors in the process. Think about how much QuickBooks saves the average bookkeeper in a given firm through invoicing and AR and everything else. People are handing me thirty-seven things they want me to throw in, so much in the product. So, at the end of the day it’s very much QuickBooks as it relates to specifically time, billing, and matter management for the legal department.
Joe: Okay. So, I'm a ProAdvisor, okay, everyone on this call is a ProAdvisor, how do we fit into the opportunity.
BJ: Number one, can we solve customer’s problems together? Is the combination of the services that ProAdvisor can provide, and the outcome that Time Matters can deliver, is that beneficial to a customer? And the very obvious answer there is yes. The next question then was: can our partners make a decent amount of money through the overall opportunity, whether that be through software services, or some combination of both, but is there a profitable revenue stream that can be generated there within their workflow?
Joe: Yes. Yes and I agree, you know, that obviously investigated the opportunity with you, and I definitely agree. And this is a great time to kind of move to some peer voices, because you just laid out tremendous opportunity, and I think it’s time to sort of validate the opportunity. We have here from a peer prospective, we have three professionals that we’ve assembled on the call here today – Dawn Brolin, a CPA powerful accounting, has a very large demographic where a large sector of her client base is professional services. She understands how to meet the needs of that demographic. My own CPA, Jim Beddow. Now, don’t email him wanting the inside scoop on me, by the way, but my own CPA, Jim Beddow, is a Time Matters user. So, he’s going to have a unique prospective on that, as a user of the software. And then, as BJ has already mentioned, Caren Schwartz, is a professional services expert. She has a niche industry and she is a certified Time Matters consultant. She has already fully adopted the software and embraced the opportunity, and again, is going monetize it. So, BJ, I'm going to turn the actually panel moderation over to you, and let you start asking Dawn some questions about servicing the professional service industry, you know, as a demographic.
BJ: Well, I feel very honored. We all know that it is not often that Joe Woodard turns the reins over and gives up the opportunity to speak to anyone. So, I feel like this is a special treat. And, Dawn, my old friend, I am delighted to be able to ask you a couple of questions. And where I’ll start is, what types of consulting are small businesses, and potentially small law firms specifically, looking for?
Dawn: The timing of this even is perfect. I was literally consulting with a law firm here in Connecticut this morning. Because I have really developed the relationship with personal service, specifically at times to initially make that phone call to me as a ProAdvisor, right, as an accountant, and be that somebody can help them with their accounting needs. And once that door opens, once that first call is made, I really make it a point not to limit myself to just that area, that maybe that’s the initial gain point, you know. We hear so many times people go to the doctor and they go for one thing and they find out they have this whole other issue that if they hadn’t gone to the doctor, they would have never even survived, right. So, we hear those stories. You know, that’s the extreme, but in the consulting industry, the needs of businesses, whether they're attorneys or other accounting firms in cases, but attorneys specifically, have more of a need than they even typically realize when they make that initial call. So, having those tools and being prepared to be able to provide those solutions, and so many of us are practitioners, like we have our own business, we all…a lot of us are in business for ourselves as ProAdvisors. And so, we mastered those pieces to run our own practice, because we are, as Joe was saying earlier, you know, this is the cream of the crop – people on this call, people that come to Scaling New Heights. They’re the cream of the crop consultants and not just accounting professionals, right. It’s not just accounting anymore. And so, I find that that is something that I know we provide that additional piece, that they don’t even realize we’re going to give them when they call us.
BJ: Yes. Couldn’t agree more. And then, just to kind of expand upon that, beyond implementing a product, like a Time Matters software, where are other consulting opportunities do you see with the Time Matters solution?
Dawn: Well, again, I love listening to the two of you talk about the needs of the attorneys, specifically in the legal industry. And I talk a lot about relationships, number one, with these attorneys, because there is a lot of work that goes back and forth between them. And, I talk about that relationship with those attorneys where you can be…they’ll send you out to their clients, because typically if somebody needs an attorney, there is always something in the accounting behind the scenes, even with individuals in a lot of cases. But, I just find that the service and the ability to support them in what they really need, and you’ve noted it about the billing. So, needing to be able to bill…and, they’re good at what they do, but the time entry and the ability to bill their clients, which again, if they don’t bill their clients, they're not making money. But, even a step further from that, they have a huge compliant legal obligation to: I owe the funds. So, if they’re not able to be tracking that information that they’re actually billable and they can take that money from (recording blank for a few seconds)…attorney, a huge legal responsibility to make sure that those funds that have been, you know, given to you as a retainer, are billed properly and accurately. And, we need to help them get those systems in place, because a lot of them just don’t even know where to start.
BJ: Yes, Dawn, I think that’s exceptionally well said, and I think it creates an extraordinary bridge actually. To our next panelist, which is Jim, who is actually a Time Matters user and a professional services firm who has likely has gone through much of what you’ve just explained so articulately. How do you leverage Time Matters in your firm?
Jim: Well, our big problem, we recognized, I don’t know, in 2004, 2005, was that the lack of integration between our software packages was killing us. We had our contacts in one application, our email in another application, we were trying to schedule on Excel. If somebody moved, changing their address, it had to be done in five or six different places. So, I started looking around for applications that would handle all of that and help us get into one silo; you know, get all of that stuff into one place. And Time Matters did that for us. As we grew and added people here, the workflow became more of an issue, and we’ve managed to configure Time Matters to handle the workflow issues for us as well. So, it’s really been a boom to my practice and has solved all those problems for me, and I’ve stayed with it because of that.
BJ: And, we obviously, appreciate that. I think Jim’s point illustrates both the benefits to him as a customer, and if you think about the expertise over eight years, the likelihood for even potential for partnership in consulting opportunity based on what he does for a living. Now, interestingly though, if you think about the customer and potential partner aspect of it, I'm delighted to introduce Caren Schwartz, who is actually one of our current Time Matters partners, and also clearly, one of the leading ProAdvisors in the Intuit community. And Caren, I’ll just start right up. What is your go-to market or new customer Time Matters strategy?
Caren: Well, many of my customers call me in because they are using a solution that is not giving them the answers that they need. They're spending a lot of time running around trying to find information, and they recognize that that is not efficient. And so, they want to know how can I do it better? Or, how can I get the answer that I need more quickly or more easily. And so, we talk about what it is they're trying to accomplish, what software they’re using now to do that, and then how a solution like Time Matters can benefit them by, as Jim said, pulling all those pieces together. You were talking earlier with Joe about how they recognize the return on investment. Well, if I can show an attorney that when a customer calls, instead of him running around trying to find the file so he can answer the client’s questions, or having to call the client back, he can have a secretary or the receptionist open up the file on the computer and say, you're next appointment is X, or this is what has happen so far. It saves an enormous amount of time, which leads to profitability. And that is really, you know, they understand that.
BJ: How do law firms react to the message of you enabling a complete front office/back office solution for practice management versus having many disparate systems?
Caren: They love it. The simpler the better. And, you know, one of the really nice things is, if my calendar is in Time Matters and I'm tracking my emails in Time Matters, or I'm preparing my documents through Time Matters, I’ve got reminders of the time that I’ve spent, and so I can remember to bill for things. And, that immediately translate to profitability, and there are tools built in to the program that do that for you, because you know, yes, the time that I have free to bill, the more I can, you know, bill. But also, remembering to bill for the work I’ve done, is enormous. And lots of little things slip through the cracks, and when you have software that reminds you and makes it easy to do it, you capture much more of that time. So, they love the fact that everything is there in front of them, they get reminded to bill for it, and then they can also see the billing information. And you know, when that client calls, that gee, hasn’t paid the bill yet, I can see that on the screen, and I can make a little comment about that, so that maybe I get paid more quickly.
BJ: I love that example. I see it a lot. The reality is, both using and then instructing your clients how to do the exact same thing so that you're both better off is a wonderfully natural and advantageous component to this dynamic. What has been your experience in the top features and workflows that law firms are utilizing specifically with Time Matters?
Caren: The calendar is probably the biggest, because they’re lives revolve around the calendar in making sure they are where they have to be when they should be, that avoids malpractice, it generates revenue, and it makes for happier clients.
BJ: What happens if an attorney misses a court date?
BJ: There you go.
Caren: So, they…ythe calendar is number one. And, one of the things you can do in Time Matters is you can set up triggers so that when I put something on my calendar, I get reminders about it, the other events that are tied to it go on the calendar so that I don’t have to remember to do everything. The next one I would say is the relationships that are created between contacts and matters, because if I have had an expert witness that I’ve worked with on my multiple cases, or I have an accountant that is, you know, dealing with several of my clients, the ability to see all those links really saves me time. And then, I think the other is just the abilities to get information out into Word documents, into Outlook, into anything, just the ability to get that information back out and reuse it.
BJ: And then, Caren, just in the interest of time, one more question, and I’ll ask if the panel has any closing comments. But, can you give this group, that may not have the direct experience you do, a little bit of background, the complementary nature of both Time Matters and QuickBooks together.
Caren: Sure. Time Matters does a great job of billing and it tracks the trust account, which Dawn mentioned how critical that is. It tracks the account receivable balance and all that information. But, it doesn’t write checks. It doesn’t have a check register in it and a general ledger. But, you can enter your information into Time Matters and send it over to QuickBooks fairly easily, and then do the accounting aspects in the program that is best suited for that. So, if I get paid, I record that payment in Time Matters against my bill, send over an entry to QuickBooks, that breaks that entry out into cash received for income and cash received for reimbursed client costs, and records it into QuickBooks so that, you know, I know exactly what’s done. Or, if I have a bill for a client cost, I can put it into Time Matters, press a button, and it’s over in QuickBooks as a bill to be paid so that I bill my client and get reimbursed for that, but I also record it in QuickBooks in one simple step.
BJ: That’s beautifully stated, Caren. So, in the interest of time again, I want to be very respectful of everyone’s hour. Dawn, Jim, Caren, any final comments before we transition on?
Caren: You know, one thing I would say is having been a Time Matters certified consultant for many years as well as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor, have done very well working with the legal industry and others, because Time Matters is not limited to legal; it works as, you know, as a CPA and is using it. So, that works very well, and I’ve done very well for me in the business. It is a huge market and there is lots of opportunity there, so I welcome more people there.
BJ: I'm not going to disagree with that.
Dawn: Well, I can say, BJ, certainly that the doors that can open for all of us as consultants, is just, you know, really an open door. And, the ability to grow your practice, which we talk a lot about in the conferences, we talk about that on a lot of webinars on how to grow your practice, and I think sometimes, you know, people think that growing your practice only means adding clients, and really, it’s in a lot of ways the opposite. Once you have these clients you don’t need 500 of them. And I think that sometimes we forget. Our growth plan isn’t just about adding clients. it’s expanding your consulting practice to other areas like we’re talking about today.
BJ: That’s well said, Dawn. Great, well listen, my sincere thanks to all three of you for your participation here, and we’ll go ahead and transition forward. But, I believe there have been a variety of questions that have come in the chat bar, and we’ll make sure the panel and I do…our team do the best to answer those as we progress here.
Joe: And BJ, first off, a great job handling thisSo, let me tell you what I’ve taken away from the last 45-minutes. According to the panelists, we need to centralize our system. Nothing disjointed, nothing that’s not tightly integrated, and as much as we can keep everything contained into one product and pull our data into that one product, that’s going to better empower us to service our client. Collaborate; collaborates with other employees, not have disjointed systems; let everybody see each other’s calendars; be able to quickly delegate emails and push data around and client’s responsibilities and tasks around within your firm; and if you do that, you can better service your client. And then, when you're reaching to your clients, this doesn’t really matter what industry they’re in, provide a mix of software solutions and straight professional services. Support some software that will help your clients get to their business goals, you know, don’t limit your practice to just providing traditional tax and accounting services. According to Dawn, not only will that help your clients to get to their goal, but it will also allow you to have a smaller, more concentrated client base for quite frankly, you can be a little pickier about the clients you take on, and provide more services to each of those clients, helping them get to their goal. And then, what I'm convinced of, freshly, is embrace the legal industry, because like BJ said, they’re not cheap, that’s a harsh stereotype anyway, because we’ve run into so many that do that. They are just negotiators by nature and by occupation. So, they’re not negotiating, they think they’re doing their job. If you understand the distinction between negotiation and the unwillingness to pay fees, you can passed that hurdle, focus on the value that you can bring to them, and the value, according to BJ is, free them up, to bill more time, get their jobs done more efficiently, and better monetize their offering, and they’ll monetize yours. Then, empower yourself with that right solution. Now, Lexis provided me with some data points, and BJ feel free to chime in and speak to these. These are the data points that you gave us. There are 450,000 small law firms in the US. On the average in the metropolitan area has 300 of them, and Lexis has on the average one to two certified consultants per major metropolitan area. So, I don’t think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out there is a massive opportunity available. You are hosting a certification course at Scaling New Heights this year. Does the time I would spend with you to get certified tell me about the legal industry and educate me on that, or do you just focus on your software?
BJ: No, it is pretty thorough, Joe. We’re going to give the folks who go through this training, category experience, workflow experience, and product experience. It’s five intense days. Back in the day of a previous channel that I ran, one thing I always heard was give us more training, give us harder certification, than we really try to embody that here.
Joe: In closing, I just want to drive home here, that a partnership with Lexis, the reason why we brought them on this call was not just to talk about Time Matters, yes, I mean, that is obviously one of the takeaways, if you want to give your clients exactly what they need, then you need to be empowered to do that. You need to have a firm that is organization, like my CPA’s firm is with the right kind of software in place. And if you're going to service professional services, you have to be able to give them what they need, a solution that can help them do the same. And, it goes beyond the solution. BJ shared a lot of his expertise today, with his years of experience, working at various companies, including Lexis, he’s quite an expert on professional service firms. The major takeaways are: consolidate, collaborate, organization your data, be effective, be efficient yourself, focus on the value component for your client, and help them. You already know what your own pain points are, so if you're servicing professional service clients, help them to accomplish what you have to accomplish to be successful, and if you focus on helping them to make more money, which translates into saving them time, and increasing their efficiency, if you help them to better monetize their offerings, they’re definitely going to value yours. And by doing so, you can give your clients not only what they’re asking for, a little bit more than that, you can give them what they really need.
Closing Note: Lexis Nexis Time Matters certification will take place this June in San Antonio before Scaling New Heights. The cost is normally $1,250, but there is a 20% discount currently being offered. This covers a 2 ½ day training session and 20 hours of online instructor led sessions for a total of 5 days of training. Interested professionals can register for Time Matters Partner Certification Workshop here.