Moving to a QuickBooks Online Practice: Are You Sitting on the Fence?

I’ll be honest, I used to be a fence sitter. I would sit and sit and not make a decision one way or another. Waiting to see what happened. Waiting to see if I would get another “sign” as to which way i should go. Then, I attended a motivational conference. I don’t even remember which one it was, or who it was that uttered the words that made me rethink my life. The words that they said were, “Not making a decision is a decision.” 

Wow. Let’s repeat that. “Not making a decision is a decision.” Such a simple statement, but so very true. And, quite honestly, those seven words fundamentally changed my life and the life of my business.

So, are you sitting on the fence? Not sure whether to make the move to QuickBooks® Online, cloud accounting, value pricing or becoming a trusted advisor to your clients? You’ve probably heard the buzz words. You’ve probably also heard the pundits and experts say that you need to do it. Maybe, even some of your friends or colleagues have dipped their toe in the water, or dived right in. But, you’re not sure. So, you are waiting. You are sitting on the fence to see what happens with our industry. Sitting on the fence to see whether it really is going this way, or if it’s going to revert back and you didn’t waste your time making any changes.

So, here’s the problem with being a fence sitter. If your butt is planted, it isn’t moving. In ANY direction. You aren’t advancing your existing situation, nor are you advancing into this brave new world. You are just sitting. Pretty soon, you are going to get a leg cramp and have to shift – one way or the other.

So, here I am, to give you that “sign” you were waiting for. I’m going to share my story of our shift to the cloud: what my objections were and why I did it. But, more importantly, what has happened since I did.

Where we Started

We moved our business to the cloud in 2010, when cloud wasn’t even a mainstream word in our industry, but actually still referred to those big white fluffy things in the sky that we studied in grade five science class. We got tired of our team being on-site at clients’ offices, and there being no consistency in how we did things across the board. I guess that my “control freak” nature took over and said that I needed to be able to see what everyone on my team was doing, how they were doing and, more importantly, that they were doing it right. I also found that with my team going from one client to the next client – one day a week here, one day there – that they weren’t really part of any team. There really wasn’t a “my” team, as they had so little interaction internally. They weren’t part of my clients’ teams because they weren’t full time and weren’t really there enough to be considered a part of the team.

So, we brought them all in house. We invested some money in technology infrastructure, servers, VPN networks, terminal servers, firewalls and backup batteries. You name it, if it existed at the time, we got it. Because, after all, we were asking our clients to put their financial data on these machines. We needed to protect it. And, so AIS Cloud was born. We called our new service offering Remote Bookkeeping Services. Catchy isn’t it? We were basically providing hosted services for desktop accounting software products.

The Next Phase

Along came QuickBooks Online (QBO) into the marketplace. I’ll be honest, I looked at it. I was a huge fan of QuickBooks Desktop already, and my team and I had been using it for many years. We knew it inside and out, and could make it do things that Intuit® probably never even knew it could do. But, QBO wasn’t as robust as its desktop counterpart, and so I had no interest in making any kind of change for myself or my clients.

A Funny Story

My Intuit account manager, Brad, had many conversations with me about making the shift, and I shut him down pretty much every time. I’m good. We are fine. We aren’t looking to make a change now. I’ll be in touch if we are. That’s pretty much what he heard from me. He even asked me one day if he could bring his manager down with him to meet me and speak with me. In that meeting, I listened to what they had to say, and then for probably the next 45 minutes, I told them why I would never move to QBO. I’ll list some of the main reasons for you that I shared with them.

  1. The program isn’t as good.
  2. We are already in the cloud with desktop, so there would be no advantage for us to make that move, as we already have all the advantages.
  3. The interface and functionality are completely different, so who is going to pick up the cost of retraining all of my team?
  4. I don’t need it. My current business model works just fine.

Like I said, I made them listen to me for almost 45 minutes about the reasons that I would NEVER move my clients or my practice to QBO. (I found out much later that the “Manager” that had come to my office was actually Jeff Cates, the president of Intuit Canada, which I’m not sure I will ever live down.)

Apparently, NEVER is about six months. Less than six months after I had that conversation with Brad and Jeff Cates, I started moving our clients to QBO and actively looking for clients that wanted to be on QBO.

So, What Changed?

I attended QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, Calif. It was the first ever global conference being hosted by Intuit, and it was a game changer for me. Sure, it had great speakers, and was big, glitzy and motivational. But, more than anything, it made me realize what my business COULD become using QBO, that it never could using the desktop version of QuickBooks. Intuit was making the monumental shift from their software being a program to it becoming a platform.

Intuit was moving QuickBooks from being an accounting software program to record financial data to being the hub of a Financial Ecosystem for our clients. I came back from that conference more excited about the industry and the potential of my own business than I had been in a long time.

The Move

I’m not going to lie to you, the shift within my practice was hard. Probably, the hardest part was getting the buy-in from my team. They hadn’t attended the conference with me and they hadn’t seen or heard what I had, so it was up to me to articulate the vision and the changes coming to our industry with all of the new technology.

I still remember the reaction of my team in our weekly team meetings. One of the things that we address in these meetings is new clients that are coming on board. Whenever I would mention that it was going to be on QBO, all eyes would shift downwards. No one would make eye contact because no one wanted that client to be assigned to them. They all knew QuickBooks Desktop. They were all comfortable in that world and had become experts.

So, we started in-house training. Once a week, we would sit down and, for an hour, I would try and get them excited about the features available, showing them how they could do things better and faster, and solve pain points for them by using the third-party apps and creating ecosystems for our clients. I knew that I had to first get the buy-in from my team before we could ever hope to get our clients onboard.

Fast Forward

All of that initial time investment paid off for us. Up until last year, we were still taking on QuickBooks Desktop clients. My team meetings shifted from announcements of new clients being on desktop, and all eyes being averted. When it was a new QBO client, the question became, “Which apps will we be connecting them to?” “ I haven’t tried that app; can that client be mine?” They are all now excited about the new technology and the changes, and what is new for them to learn. Their shift has moved from gathering receipts and entering them manually into QuickBooks to finding and creating efficiencies for our clients in their businesses. I also feel pretty good knowing that they are at the forefront of this industry and will have jobs in the future.

But, more important than what the change has done for my team, the most significant change has been for our clients. We have fundamentally changed the way that we are able to provide information to our clients about what is happening in their businesses. Most of our clients are in real-time reporting now. So, if it’s halfway through the month, they already know how their business is performing and can make changes so that the monthly sales end up being where they need to be. They receive more insights into their numbers because we now have the ability to provide more analytics on their numbers, in terms that they can relate to and understand. The shift has moved us from being a “necessary-evil” part of their business functions for compliance to a necessary spoke in their wheelhouse.

It’s been eye-opening. It’s been exciting. And, I firmly believe that we are only on the cusp of this shift in our industry. Sure, you can continue to do things the way that you’ve always done them. You can still manually enter a receipt, a bill or print a cheque. But, why? Why, when there are so many more opportunities available to you with automation and being in the cloud? This is the way that the future is moving, whether you want to accept it now or later. At some point, you will have to accept it. So, come on down off of that fence. Put your first foot down, then the other. And, start taking those first steps into the future. I promise you, you won’t regret that decision.