Firm of the Future Profile: AIS Solutions

Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2017 Firms of the Future. Our latest edition features AIS Solutions, a Canadian firm and the grand prize winner of our Firm of the Future contest unveiled at QuickBooks® Connect 2017.

Danielle Ernst: Congratulations on being the Global Firm of the Future winner! Tell us about yourself and your business, and what makes your business a Firm of the Future.

Juliet Aurora: We’re a husband and wife team running AIS Solutions, which provides full cycle bookkeeping and QuickBooks training and support. We also operate the Kninja Knetwork, which provides training, coaching and support for accounting professionals interested in moving to the cloud. We’re always pushing ourselves to be better, learn more and look for new trends that point to what’s happening next. We’re both tech geeks at heart and like to be on the cutting edge.

Steve Loates: Whenever we see new technology that we think may provide a positive opportunity for our clients or our own business, we’re never afraid to be early adopters.  

DE: What’s on the horizon for your firm in 2018?

JA: At AIS, we’re focused on continuing to develop our Success Team that we recently introduced. It’s comprised of team members tasked with improving the business and taking it to the next level. The team is divided into Team Ambassadors who help grow and further team culture, and Client Happiness Ambassadors who focus on improving the client experience.

SL: At QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, we learned that we have lots of great ideas, as many business owners do, but as the business grows, Juliet and I often become the bottleneck that prevents those great ideas from being implemented due to our time constraints. In 2018, we want to make sure to empower those members of our team with an interest in helping us move forward to take charge of factors that will improve the business. We’re also continuing to advance our Kninja Knetwork based on feedback we receive from members.

DE: Given the capability of the cloud, what’s the most unexpected place you have ever worked?

JA: Most frequently, I would say our cars. But, our favorite spot to work – and also probably the most unexpected – would be the Riviera Maya, sitting on the balcony with the ocean in the background. That’s the beauty of QuickBooks Online (QBO).

DE: What apps do you typically use? Any you recommend as a must have?

JA: Hubdoc and Plooto are mandatory. We also require TSheets by QuickBooks if the business needs time tracking, and Wagepoint if the company does payroll. We also love Receipt Bank and Fathom.

DE: About how much time would you say apps and cloud-based technologies save you/your business?

JA: The monthly bookkeeping for our own company previously took up to 20 hours per month. That number has dropped dramatically to 3 ½ hours per month with the automation via bank feeds, payment processing via Plooto and payroll processing with Wagepoint. Since the conversion of our own bookkeeping to QBO, our customer invoicing and payment processing time has decreased from 6 hours per month to 22 minutes per month!

SL: Because we use the products internally and benefit from the results firsthand, we carry great credibility when recommending them to our clients. For one of our clients who we recently introduced to the QBO ecosystem, we were able to take their monthly bookkeeping from a full-time person to under 100 hours per month, with less involvement from the owners and more real-time reporting.

DE: You mentioned you began moving clients to the cloud around 2010. What prompted this shift and what were the biggest client objections to working in the cloud back in 2010?

JA: We’re not afraid to adopt new technologies, even before they become popular. Before 2010, we went on-site to do bookkeeping, but found it difficult to monitor and deliver the level of service we wanted to our clients. So, we decided to move to the cloud and bring our team in-house so that we had more control over the level of service being delivered to our clients. This also allowed us to have our bookkeepers supervised by accountants and customize the services we offer. By moving to the cloud, we had the flexibility to bill for the time required to do a job, as opposed to a flat daily rate. If they need bookkeeping or accounting support for a half hour every day, we can do that now, but we couldn’t if we had to go on-site.

SL: Clients initially were unsure of how the process would work, but felt confident after we explained it and outlined the benefit to them.

DE: How does your firm use social media to its advantage?

SL: We are big believers in online marketing and social media. We use it all – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube, just in different ways. Social media generates leads for our business and drives traffic to the website, but it also creates awareness, enhances our branding and keeps us in front of potential clients all the time.

DE: For accounting firms not yet using social media, what would your advice be for them to take the first step?

SL: I’d say, “What are you waiting for?” Don’t jump on every social channel at the beginning. Start with one channel, do it well and build your reputation there. Once you feel it’s working, then consider a second channel.

JA: Millennials are on social – they need to find you there. If they can’t, your credibility drops in their eyes.

DE: Where did the idea for your Kninja Knetwork Division come from? What success have you seen from this?

JA: When we first had the idea, we were looking to see if it already existed. We expected someone else to have built it, but no one did, and it didn’t seem like anyone was going to. So, we did it! It came out of internal pain points we had to solve. It’s a year old now and we have a base member platform. It’s been quite successful for us.

SL: And, we’ve gained learnings on how to improve the program from our members. We’re ready to translate that feedback into actionable success in 2018.

DE: What future invention are you most looking forward to?

JA: I’m looking forward to seeing how Artificial Intelligence and machine learning will change how we do things, how we run our lives and businesses, and how we can help our clients.

DE: What’s the biggest impact you have had on a client’s small business? Any favorite client stories worth sharing?

JA: We mentioned our client who saved on time, but we’ve also had a great experience helping a client in the construction/home building business. Typically, this client would run an 8-10 month project, during which time they would lose money but not be able to identify why.

We connected them to QBO and Knowify to track costs by different phases of building the home. This helped them see where items were misquoted and could get ahead before the project lost money. Real-time metrics are important because they help clients make changes before it’s too late.

DE: If you weren’t an accountant, what would you be and why?

JA: I’d like to expand what types of businesses I own, but I love being a business owner too much to do anything else!

SL: I can’t imagine being anything other than a business owner and entrepreneur.

DE: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?

JA: Nobody does this alone so number one, we’d recommend finding a mentor or coach who has already gone down that path and can provide advice. Also, don’t try to duplicate your traditional bookkeeping and accounting in the cloud – this is a different product. Open yourself up to doing things in a different way.

SL: That’s the key – be open. Go to conferences and get as many opinions and as much education before you make the move so that when you do, you feel comfortable and confident. We didn’t do this by ourselves. It takes help from your team and from your community. We’ve had so many associates in Canada, the U.S. and more to help support and encourage us.