Where are They Now? 2015 Firm of the Future Winner Two Roads: Joe Carufe
One year after winning Intuit’s® first Firm of the Future contest, Two Roads’ President Joe Carufe tells us how the contest changed his firm and outlines his plans for 2017. Note, in the photo below, (from left) Adam Slack, founder/principal; Joe Carufe, president/principal; and Bill Piper, business strategist/principal.
Danielle Ernst: Hi Joe. What has changed for Two Roads since winning Intuit’s first Firm of the Future contest in 2015?
Joe Carufe: Winning the first Firm of the Future award was a huge honor and confirmation of our hard work, with changing our mindset from a data entry company to trustworthy advisors. We are so excited to see other firms adopt the Firm of the Future principles and couldn’t go without congratulating Karine Woodman and 24hr Bookkeeper on their 2016 victory! In the last year, we’ve had the joy of chatting with firms around the globe to learn from the brightest people in the business, share trade secrets and talk with thousands of other accounting professionals on Firm of the Future roadshows.
In recent months, we’ve realized that at the end of the day, it’s all about serving small business owners and doing all we can to help them succeed. We’re excited to expand Two Roads into our second city – Memphis, Tenn.! Our hope is to serve more small business owners throughout the Memphis area, help them grow and be more successful.
DE: What is your advice to accounting firms who are hesitant to work in the cloud?
JC: Our future clients will be using the cloud to run their businesses. If we don’t adopt this technology, we’re eventually going to get so far behind the curve that clients won’t want to work with us because we will actually create bottlenecks in their daily operations. Let’s be honest, change is hard! Ask other firms what their journey to the cloud looked like, what mistakes to avoid and what the payoff is, but at a minimum, start mapping out your journey to the cloud.
DE: How does Two Roads choose software and app partners before recommending them to clients?
JC: It’s important to start with a solid foundation. Intuit has a quality product so we have all of our clients in QuickBooks® Online. It creates efficiency because our entire staff and client base is using the same product. All other apps have to integrate with QuickBooks Online and understand the problems business owners face so that they know how to solve them. Bill.com is our accounts payable solution that alleviates the very real frustration of writing checks and getting paid from customers. TSheets is a highly recommended app because of their world-class customer service. We feel confident putting our customers in direct contact with TSheets because we know they care about our clients as much as we do!
We also look for simplicity when choosing software. I want to know, within the first two minutes of reading a website, what an app will do and how it does it. Business owners are busy people and can’t afford to spend hours learning a new tool; it needs to be intuitive and simple to use from day one.
DE: What’s the one quality about Two Roads that stands out, or sets it apart, from others?
JC: When we won the Firm of the Future contest, we thought we were really tech-savvy. We would have said it was technology because we were pretty efficient and had vetted just about every app in the market at the time. I think what we’ve discovered about ourselves is that what makes us different is we truly partner with our clients. We want to be seen less of an accounting team and more of an advisor. For us, it’s about solving problems. Timely and consistent financials are the best place to start, as it reveals invaluable insights about how a business is performing. We want Two Roads to be known for our excellent work, clear and responsive communication, a caring disposition, and the ability to provide honest feedback and ask the hard questions, so that we can help our clients get to the next level in their business.
DE: Two Roads increased its participation in social media since winning the contest. How have these tools benefitted the firm, and is there one platform, in particular, that has helped your firm bring in more leads or engage with potential new clients the most?
JC: We’ve been pretty active on Twitter, Facebook and our blog. As an accounting firm, we can’t just be seen as a vendor; you have to let your personality come out on social media. We stay active on social media so that our existing clients and prospects get a sense of our culture and see that we are real people, too. From there, they go to our website to learn the full story of our business and the value proposition we bring to small businesses. Nearly 20 percent of our website traffic comes from social media clicks.
DE: What are Two Roads’ main goals for 2017, and how do you plan to achieve them as the firm’s president?
JC: We want to help more business owners with their bookkeeping and accounting needs. Brad Smith (CEO, Intuit) said that 89 percent of business owners are more successful when they partner with an accounting professional. We want to be part of that success. So, first, we are building marketing strategies to reach business owners who don’t have anyone partnering with them to help them thrive, scale and be successful.
The second step is hiring more amazing people to be seen as a trusted member of the small business community. We have already gotten the ball rolling on our new Memphis office, but are looking for other cities to launch soon. The beauty of cloud technology is that we can serve clients all over the world, but for some business owners, they still like to meet with a friendly face before hiring a new bookkeeping firm.
DE: What’s one thing you think every accounting professional serving clients should know/make sure they do consistently?
JC: First and foremost, especially in our industry, is communication. We [accounting professionals] are known for not responding to emails for days and speaking in non-understandable ways. We may not think an IRS notice is urgent, but trust me, to a business owner, anything from the IRS is urgent! You can have the best talent and the best technology, but if you are unresponsive, you won’t succeed in this “always-on” work environment.
DE: Do you have any other thoughts to share with your accounting professional peers?
JC: Meeting other firms out there has been a sweet surprise. From Australia to the UK, many of these firms are well known and busy, but they’re willing to take a call from me so I can learn from them. We all have the same goals, and the growing number of small businesses who don’t have the accounting help they need is enormous. Start reaching out to firms that you know and trust and ask for advice! It may not always be free, but I can assure you that it will be invaluable to your business and your future.