Future Profiles: Cindy Henderson Magner, Beyond Bookkeeping
Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2015 Firm of the Future finalists.
In this new article, we feature Cindy Henderson Magner of Beyond Bookkeeping (BBK). Be sure to scroll down to see her video.
Elizabeth Joyce: Welcome, Cindy! Tell us, what is Beyond Bookkeeping all about?
Cindy Henderson Magner: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth! At Beyond Bookkeeping, we’re all about demystifying finances. In my extensive research into micro-enterprise creation and growth, I found that the lack of financial controls and the inability to interpret financial statements were the main reasons many small businesses fail. Because of this, my firm specializes in helping clients understand their numbers and make informed decisions by utilizing a customizable, high tech approach. We’re currently focusing on professional service, ecommerce and technology businesses.
EJ: In your Firm of the Future video submission, you said you planned to be 100 percent cloud-based within the year. Mission accomplished?
CHM: Through a combination of sheer determination and unwavering resolve – yes! We actually became more profitable at the end of it all. Our margins are higher, and we’re better able to attract new clients.
EJ: How did your firm tackle the actual process of converting clients from desktop to cloud?
CHM: We created a game plan, set a timeline and stuck to deadlines. We also chunked our clients into groups, based on levels of difficulty. We identified which clients were easy to convert, such as those who didn’t have a preference in what tools they were using, and had them move to the cloud first. Once they were converted, we moved on to the more difficult clients.
We had to off-board about 50 clients who weren’t willing to transition, due to the nature of their business or because it simply wasn’t the right system for them. It was an emotional decision to let them go, but we were devoted to following through with our initiative to be wholly cloud-based.
EJ: What words of wisdom would you share with firms who are also looking to become firms of the future?
CHM: Transitioning clients from QuickBooks® Desktop to QuickBooks Online can feel like standing on two logs in a river, but keep in mind that some clients might actually surprise you and want to adopt new technology – even if you think they won’t.
EJ: There must be a story here.
CHM: There is! I was actually very concerned about retaining one of my long-time clients when I moved my firm to the cloud. We had been partners for more than a decade, and I truly didn’t think he would be able to make the transition. It amazed me when he took the leap and defied my expectations by entirely changing his workflow. The change reinvigorated him and helped him re-engage with his business. Now, every time we meet, he tells me that he’s loving the automation, raves about the tools and insists on learning how to manage it all from his phone. We thought we’d lose him as a client, but he ended up adopting the technology faster than anyone else.
EJ: Your firm has certainly accomplished a lot this past year. What’s in the works for 2016?
CHM: While 2015 was all about conversion to the cloud, 2016 is about conversation. My number one goal this year is to implement and deliver cloud processes across the board, and offer advisory services to my clients. We currently use a flat rate model, but we’re keen on moving every sale to a value-based model. We’re focused on converting clients from hourly rates to a flat rate, and driving the conversation around this change with them.
EJ: What types of apps do you use at your firm?
CHM: This is the upside of living in the Bay Area – we’re constantly exposed to new solutions since many clients come to us already using certain apps. We try those we’re unfamiliar with and then roll them out to other clients. The number of apps we use grows as our clients grow.
Our staples include QuickBooks Online for our accounting, and Hubdoc as our standard tool for documentation. We’ve also been using Bill.com since 2011, as an electronic filing system to get away from printing checks and to manage our accounts payable and receivable. We use Expensify to manage expense reports and corporate credit card accounts. Other notable apps in our arsenal include Aero WorkFlow Manager and Practice Ignition for proposals and payment processing.
EJ: Aside from moving to the cloud and embracing value pricing, what other strides are you taking towards becoming a Firm of the Future?
CHM: Our business still relies primarily on word of mouth, so I’m eyeing social media to promote our brand and market our original content. Hubdoc actually found us on Twitter, and that was a huge game changer for my firm, so we’ve seen how social media can legitimately generate new customers. I don’t expect it to drive leads overnight, but it’s definitely a worthy investment into my firm that will pay off in the long run.
EJ: How do you think the accounting industry will change in the long run?
CHM: Everything will be automated. The time people spent crunching numbers is over; you don’t have an office and you don’t need paper. The true value of accountants rests in their counsel. The automated, cloud-based, paperless relationship clients have wanted all along will exclusively be what future accountants offer.
Editor’s Note: Click on the video below to see Cindy Henderson Magner’s Firm of the Future video: