This Guy Conquered the #1 Problem Faced by Accountants

Grappling with piles of paper and inefficient filing systems used to be CPA Andrew Berg's biggest problem. Now that his data is available on the cloud 24/7, he can answer his clients' toughest questions in real time. We asked Berg to share how he has streamlined his workflow and improved his ability to offer insightful advice to clients by using QuickBooks Online and Fathom's online financial analysis app. Here’s how Berg, one of Intuit's 2015 Firm of the Future Winners, conquered the biggest problem faced by accountants today: operating efficiently.

First, tell us a little about yourself and your firm.

My name is Andrew Berg, of Berg Partners. We’re located in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, one mile outside of Philadelphia. We consist of six people, and service three- to four-hundred business and individual clients from all industries.

What makes your firm a Firm of the Future?

We're young, we're energetic and everything we do includes technology. We’re constantly looking at the newest and best technologies out there to help our clients be efficient and spend their time doing what they do best.

You use QuickBooks Online for 95 percent of your clients. What motivated you to go in that direction?

I grew tired with everybody commoditizing my business and telling me how to run it. Everyone was doing things differently. I would receive information in so many different forms. Then I’d start to play with it and hopefully be able to provide them some advice. But it took so long to get it into a form we could work with. By the time we were ready to provide advice, there was no time. So I knew there had to be a better way.

When we first started to get everybody to follow one system, we started hosting clients' QuickBooks files on our server. They would log into our server and use it remotely. But there were huge technological challenges to managing that process, and we became IT people. Once again I knew there had to be a better way, and that's when the cloud came out.

We started moving all of our clients, most of whom were using QuickBooks Desktop at the time, to a hosted solution for QuickBooks Desktop. At this time — seven or eight years ago — QuickBooks Desktop was still far superior to QuickBooks Online.

We wanted to host them in a cloud-based environment, but QBO just wasn’t quite ready yet. We loved the fact that we didn't have to ask for backup discs. We didn't have to spend all that time getting the data into our system anymore; it was already there. We were already starting to see benefits in the free time we had to help clients.

And, then QuickBooks Online emerged as relevant in the industry. We started to look into this in the years following and realized that the product had been tremendously upgraded. Because the price to host client files in the cloud for QuickBooks Desktop was about three times higher than Quickbooks Online, it seemed like a natural move for almost all of our clients.

How do you see QuickBooks Online today versus the desktop version of QuickBooks?

I think all our clients are going to be off the desktop version of QuickBooks within the next couple of years. I have a few clients who need the desktop version for specific reasons. But we're in a subscription-based world now, and everybody's used to paying subscription-based fees for what they want 24/7, on their phones, iPads and computers. QBO is a natural move for almost every client. I think the hesitancy just stems from fear of change at this point. I don't see how all of my clients won't be utilizing QuickBooks Online soon. And that's our business model: We’d like to reach a point where we’re only servicing clients who want to use QuickBooks Online and its ecosystem in the very near future.

What other apps do you and your clients use?

We use Expensify, TSheets and Receipt Bank, and we just started to use Fathom. We spend a lot of time analyzing our clients' data and using Excel to manipulate it. We found that Fathom is a program that takes the data and manipulates it for you. It provides informative reports and graphs. We think that's the next piece for us to grow our business advisory services.

What advice would you give to those hesitant to adopt cloud technologies?

Cloud technologies are already here, and if you don't look at this as an option — a real option for your business today — you're going to miss out on an opportunity to be ahead of your competition.