Firm of the Future Profile: 24hr Bookkeeper
This is the first in a series of profiles on the 2016 Firm of the Future finalists, including this one on 24hr Bookkeeper, the winner of the competition.
Danielle Ernst: Congratulations on being named the Firm of the Future! Tell us about yourself.
Karine Woodman: Based in Hibbing, Minnesota, 24hr Bookkeeper has been in business almost seven years. We have five people on our team and service approximately 50-70 clients at any given time.
We work with clients in multiple industries, but have started moving our marketing efforts toward construction companies, since we already do so many of them. We don’t do any tax work. We offer bookkeeping, payroll, QuickBooks® training, and consulting and business consulting.
DE: What makes you a Firm of the Future?
KW: We embrace technology, find efficient workflows for ourselves and our clients, offer a fixed price structure to our clients, and work to be a member of their team. We are all about working smarter, not harder, and always looking for ways to be more efficient in the process.
DE: We noticed your firm uses a number of apps and cloud-based technologies to run from your phones to your invoicing. How do you choose the best apps for your firm and clients?
KW: It has to make sense for us. We know that there is a lot of functionality within QuickBooks Online (QBO) alone, and if we find a solution that simplifies our system, finds us more time and creates more efficiency, we will test it. For our clients, I will contact the app company, if I’m unfamiliar with it. I ask about how the integration works, what the mapping looks like, what the output looks like in QBO and what the typical workflow resembles.
DE: Which app do you recommend most frequently, and why?
KW: I’m a bit different with that – we don’t recommend apps to our clients unless it will solve a problem they are having, or it is needed for a successful collaboration effort. In collaboration with us, we will have them use Hubdoc or LedgerSync because we use these for workflow in-house.
DE: You’re a fan of value pricing. How did you introduce value pricing to your clients? What was their reaction, and what changes have you seen in the way you collaborate with them?
KW: We introduced it to new clients first, to test it out and figure out our own system for pricing this way. It took some time to get it right. Once we got the system down with how we wanted to offer it, we went to our existing clients and everyone was on board. We’ve started the process about three years ago; it just wasn’t great and I had not been able to recognize how to price the value we offered. Now, we do.
DE: What advice would you give those thinking about transitioning from hourly fees to monthly fixed fees?
KW: Do it! Your clients want it – they don’t want to be surprised and it makes invoicing much better for you as the service provider. I never liked calculating total hours and then feeling sometimes like my client could be upset that the price got so high on a certain month. I’m a big believer of addressing all things upfront with the client, and everyone is on the same page and knows each other’s expectations.
DE: You mentioned 24hr Bookkeeper has been able to serve clients better because they no longer see you a “data entry personnel.” What exactly about value pricing makes them see your firm as a trusted advisor?
KW: This is a tough question. I would say there would be no surprises. We discuss everything upfront and they know how we bring value to the table. They know what they’re getting for what price, and because I give them options, they feel they had control in deciding what we do for them.
DE: What about marketing? How do you find new clients, or how do they find your firm?
KW: The only form of promotion we do is on social media. We participate in webinars, which has helped us tremendously. Clients have seen us talk about areas they feel related to what they need, and they call us that way. We also get a lot of referrals, which is the majority of how clients find us.
DE: How do you find the balance between marketing and run-the-business type work?
KW: We’ve been working on improving our inefficiencies related to marketing. I have a team that helps me tremendously. We are in the process of organizing our marketing plan for 2017, and by doing just this, we will find a better balance. Currently, we are handling events and marketing efforts equally to organize our client work.
DE: How have webinars and your website helped your firm reach new prospects?
KW: It has put us in an “expert” category because we’ve been able to show our level of knowledge and who we are. This has been a huge part of our success. It’s not just about doing the webinar once, but the fact that the webinars are available to be watched over and over again and continue to reach people long after the webinar is over.
DE: Any favorite client stories worth sharing?
KW: My favorite one is that I was competing against another ProAdvisor® for a client in Nevada. I was charging him four times more than the other ProAdvisor for QuickBooks integration with another third-party app. After a couple phone calls, they decided to go with me because I had the knowledge and they knew I could help them achieve their expected outcome.
DE: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?
KW: They have to be willing to try and be open minded. Change is hard, but you have to put yourself out there and experience things that are outside your comfort zone. Start a little at a time, and as they get comfortable, they will start embracing more technology, and will realize that it’s not that bad and it can help make this easier and simpler to deal with.