ProAdvisor Profile of the Month: Carla Caldwell

The QuickBooks ProAdvisor® Program equips accounting professionals with the tools they need to fuel small business success. Three years ago, Carla Caldwell began her firm to strategically guide accounting firms to become a modern practice. In this profile, learn how she coaches accountants to grow their practice using QuickBooks® Online, apps and the ProAdvisor Program, while adding value to both the firm and the clients they serve.

Sheila Kilbride: Hello, Carla, thanks for speaking with me today. Please summarize your practice for me.

Carla Caldwell: Three years ago, I founded my company, Caldwell Consulting & Training. I’m based in Atlanta, Georgia and have one employee and two contractors. My business has two parts. I provide bookkeeping and accounting services to non-profits and coach accountants and help them transition their firm into a modern practice. My website is CaldwellCT.com.

Sheila: Why did you choose non-profits as your niche?

Carla: I love working with non-profits, because I am passionate about mission-based businesses. I started doing bookkeeping with non-profits as a volunteer for the PTA and Girl Scouts. Eventually, I transitioned to taking them on as clients. I am able to make a difference in their business, because I understand both accounting and day-to-day operations. Often, I serve as a liaison between the non-profit and the CPA firm.

Sheila: Tell me more about your coaching practice for accountants.

Carla: I strategically guide accounting firms to become a modern practice. Through coaching, training programs and teaching, I help them to modernize what they're doing. For example, I show them how to upgrade their practice through technology, and understand the strategy behind becoming more efficient and moving to the cloud. This allows them to provide better services, generate more value for their clients and, in turn, charge more for their expertise.

I love working with accounting professionals. I understand them and how they think because I am one of them. Additionally, with my technology background, I understand apps and can explain how they fit in and benefit an accounting practice.

Sheila: Why are apps valuable?

Carla: That's a great question. The reason that apps are so valuable is because they fulfill a need inside the firm to be more efficient and effective in what they do, so they can focus on the real needs of the client. Often, I find the accountants I coach are still doing a lot of manual work, not tracking everything they need to track or missing deadlines. This is where apps can help. I am very intentional about apps. I recommend apps that increase efficiency and save time and money, so accountants can shift their focus to providing more value for the client. Ultimately, I want to create a better experience for their customers and their teams.

Sheila: How do you help accountants define their value and compensation?

Carla: First, it’s important for accountants to articulate their value. That is not something we do very well. We focus on the details of what we are doing, such as bank reconciliation, instead of the value we are providing. A small business owner doesn’t care about the bank reconciliation. He or she cares  about the results: are their books in order, do they understand the numbers, can they see where they are making money and losing money, are they able to grow their business, and hire the next employee?

We help clients understand the value we provide by talking about the journey and the results. For example, “When we started, you didn’t understand your financials. Now you do, and we can talk about and plan for the future.” This is the value we bring and we need to explain that to our clients.

Sheila: What’s the best advice you could give accountants?

Carla: Learn to say no. When we learn how to say no to certain things, then the feeling of overwhelm goes away. Sometimes we say no to clients we've had for a really long time because they don’t allow us to really focus on the clients for whom we can provide the most value and who are the most profitable.

Sheila: Tell me about your journey with Intuit®.

Carla: As I was doing bookkeeping, accounting and consulting with clients, more and more people started talking about QuickBooks Online. When I was invited to speak at the Firm of the Future roadshow, I got to know the Intuit products, people and culture. I was so impressed that I wanted to get more involved; I joined the Trainer Writer Network and began teaching QuickBooks Online. It has been awesome. I love working with the people at Intuit and the accounting professionals. It's really been a great fit.

Sheila: When did you become a ProAdvisor?

Carla: I joined the program two years ago. I am a huge believer in education, so getting certified and advanced certified was a big deal to me. I also started attending QuickBooks Connect where I got to know the vendors and app partners.

Sheila: Why should a bookkeeper or accountant become a ProAdvisor? How does the ProAdvisor program grow your practice?

Carla: First, Intuit creates the connection between small businesses and accounting professionals. Studies show that 70 to 80 percent of small businesses are more successful when they work with an accounting professional. In QuickBooks Online, there is a My Accountant tab where small business owners can search for an accountant. If you are a certified ProAdvisor, you will be listed here where businesses can find you.

Second, the education Intuit provides is top notch and invests a lot in the accounting community. The certification classes are taught by accounting practitioners like myself with real-world experience. We use the application ourselves and interject our experiences into the training, which I think is invaluable to the people who are attending.

Sheila: If you could tell an accounting pro who is not a QuickBooks ProAdvisor why he or she should join, what's the one thing you would highlight?

Carla: The one thing I would highlight is the community. Being a part of the ProAdvisor community allows others to learn from their colleagues how to serve their customers using QuickBooks Online - and use it in a way that really provides value to their customers. Small businesses are looking for a different kind of relationship with their accountant. I’m thrilled to be part of this community and also work directly with accounting professionals to help them do just that.