Firm of the Future Spotlight: Neilson Bookkeeping & Tax Services

Welcome to another Firm of the Future profile, spotlighting forward-thinking firms who are embracing QuickBooks® Online, the cloud and much more to take their practices to the next level. This edition features QuickBooks ProAdvisor® Becky Neilson of Neilson Bookkeeping & Tax Services. Stay tuned for more Firm of the Future profiles and continue visiting our blog often.

Firm of the Future Team: Hi Becky! Start by telling us a little bit about yourself and your practice.

Becky Neilson: When I first started using QuickBooks, I had another business, a retail wholesale leather business where I sold a lot of historical clothing of the 1800s. After 9/11, I noticed my income dropped dramatically and started looking for alternative ways to make money.

I knew how to use QuickBooks Desktop because I'd been using it a long time, and I knew bookkeeping and tax preparation, so I started doing all that in addition to my other business and picked up some clients. I eventually left my focus on tax, and after seeing some of my former clients go out of business, I told myself that I’m going to do this all on my own.

I can officially say that I was totally on my own starting in the fall of 2011. About three years ago, I seriously started using QuickBooks Online (QBO). I had never quite gotten to the point where I asked myself, "Do I want to do the cloud?" At the time, QBO wasn't quite where I wanted it to be, but through the encouragement of Stacy Kildal – one of my mentors – I decided to jump in and try QBO.

It proved to be a great decision! I went from practically nobody using QBO to now around 95 percent of my clients using it. The tools make it so much easier for me to be efficient and provide better advising. I'm not spending all my time doing data entry, and it’s so seamless that my clients love it. And, I love it, too!

It's amazing how my business has grown – my revenues are growing and my profits are so much higher than they were when I did my other businesses. I love being my own boss, and that's what being a ProAdvisor allows me to do with my own practice. Last year, I actually incorporated, so I'm now officially a corporation and a CEO, not just an owner.

FOTF Team: Wow, that’s fantastic, and a very inspirational story! Now that you’ve used QBO for a while, what do you like most about it?  

BN: The big thing that I love is the live bank feeds. Setting up my clients' bank accounts, their credit card accounts and having that live feed to be able to have those numbers in real time is so empowering. Clients look and they're like, "Wow, this is what's happening in my books right now," versus before, when they would wait until the end of the month to get their bank statements entered. In the past, they'd be entering some transactions and miss stuff. With QBO, nothing gets missed. It's accurate, and for clients that take credit cards, if a fraudulent charge shows up, they're seeing it instantly rather than 30 days later when their statement comes out. Plus, there's the ability for all of us to be able to access the accounts at the same time.

QBO also gives me so much flexibility. About seven years ago, my husband became disabled and couldn’t work. The fact that I could work from anywhere and adjust my schedule for family, or anything else, was great. Now, I only have one client that's still on Desktop, an older couple who may retire soon. That's the only one that I go to visit in person each week. The rest of the time, I don't have to travel. My schedule is so much more flexible, and that is great as a ProAdvisor.

FOTF Team: You mentioned that you do value billing. What advice would you give to your fellow ProAdvisors who are scared to make that plunge or afraid to talk to their clients about making the switch?

BN: Don’t be afraid and just do it. A lot of times, I’ve found that it works best by showing the client exactly how it works, through a live bank feeds demo, for example. Then, they see what it's like. You don't have to do data entry, everything is up to date and you know exactly what you're going to pay, so there’s no cringing at your bill. Yeah, you pay the first of the month, but then you don't have to worry about it.

I make sure my engagement letter includes all of the details and that all my clients sign it. If you spell everything out, everybody knows what's going on. The clients are happy, you're happy, and there’s peace of mind knowing your cash flow is set and you do not have to chase after the bills. The security is just unbelievable.

FOTF Team: That’s great advice Becky. We recently noticed that you took the 5 for $5 QuickBooks Online Plus offer to help grow your business. Please tell us about that experience and its impact on your practice.

BN: It was perfect timing and my practice has really grown from it. When I first signed up for the offer, I already had a few potential clients I had been trying to move to QBO; taking the offer only pushed me to pursue them faster. More specifically, I wanted them on QBO Plus because I knew they were eventually going to need payroll and more robust reports. Because this offer included QBO Plus, I could start them on a Plus version right away at an incredible price, while bundling the QBO subscription cost into my services, so they didn't have to deal with another bill. They could see the value it provided both of us. I was able to fill all five spots, and do so much sooner than I thought.

FOTF Team: That’s great Becky! For your ProAdvisor peers who may be on the fence about taking the 5 for $5 QBO Plus offer or still mulling it over, what would you tell them?

BN: You’re going to look like a rock star to your clients by affordably giving them all the bells and whistles of QBO Plus. You're giving them the support they need so that they can succeed. That's the key – you need to be able to show the value to your clients so that they succeed. I've had clients say, "Some of these guys charge a lot more." I say, "I charge a reasonable price because I want you to succeed. If you succeed, I have a client for life. If you fail, we both fail."

FOTF Team: That’s some great advice. What about those that are new to QBO and only have one or two clients right now and think five QBO subscriptions are a lot to fill for the offer? What would you say to those people?

BN: I remember first starting out and just trying to get a few people to be my clients. I was learning QBO and taking in all of the tips about how to use it. What I tell other ProAdvisors, or even those who are considering just getting into bookkeeping, is to become QuickBooks' certified. The program is free, and you’re basically getting a free subscription to QuickBooks Online Accountant (QBOA). The extra tools that you get with QBOA are awesome. You're going to do your own books, access all of your clients' books, and get all these extra bells and whistles.

I tell them, "How can you not want to grow your business when it doesn't cost you? Really, it doesn't. For five QBO Plus subscriptions for $5 each a month, you're not losing money. You've got the great opportunity to grow your business, as you grow and learn to use QBO better. Make sure you take advantage of all of the free training that Intuit® offers. The more you use it, the more you're going to say, "Why did I not do this sooner," and “Why was I so hesitant to use this fantastic software?" It really is fantastic!

FOTF Team: Thanks Becky!