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Firm of the Future profile: Cloud Bookkeeping Services

Welcome to the first in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2018 Firms of the Future. This Q&A features Tanya Hilts, owner of Cloud Bookkeeping Services, a Canadian firm and the grand prize winner of our Firm of the Future contest unveiled at QuickBooks® Connect 2018.

Mindy King: Congratulations on being the 2018 Firm of the Future grand prize winner and finalist for Canada! Tell us about yourself and your business.

Tanya Hilts: I started 20 years ago by offering tax services at my kitchen table. Since then, the business has grown to more than 500 annual tax clients, and evolved to include bookkeeping, with my migration to the cloud taking place in 2012. Now, my business has grown to provide a full-service, cloud-based workflow to small businesses, and I have a team of four: two full-time and two part-time staff.

MK: What makes your firm a Firm of the Future?

TH: I think there are a lot of factors that come into play when describing a Firm of the Future. Being 100 percent virtual, we maximize technology to manage our firm and communicate with clients. Being able to work from anywhere is important within our changing profession. We also use social media as our primary form of marketing, mixed in with some networking and a lot of referrals. Social media has allowed us to keep in contact with our clients and mentees using private and public Facebook groups.

The final key to being a Firm of the Future is education. We educate our clients on the technology and the complacencies they need to know in order to make sure they are meeting all their obligations as a business owner. However, our advisory services focus not only on our bookkeeping clients, but also on bookkeepers within our “Tanya’s Bookkeepers Bootcamp” program. We designed this program three years ago to educate bookkeepers and accountants on how to use technology to become more efficient and automate, as we did, through QuickBooks® OnlineQuickBooks Online Accountant, integrated CRM and workflow apps.

MK: We’ve heard of your success in helping Brighton Sport and Wellness Centre. How did you find each other and how were you able to work together to achieve mutual success?

TH: When Brighton Sport and Wellness first came to us, the business’s owner, Holly Trinkwon, had found us on Kijiji and chose us based on our website. As we made the move to cloud accounting, she transitioned with us. At some points, she was resistant to the move, so we tackled it in baby steps to suit her comfort level.

Moving from QuickBooks Desktop to QuickBooks Online was the first move, and unfortunately, we were still reactive instead of being proactive. We added in Hubdoc to fetch her bank statements, but at her insistence, we were still receiving 95 percent of her paperwork with a monthly drop-off. The final step was her finally agreeing to take pictures, adding in Receipt Bank and training her to snap a picture of her receipts. Now, she is 100 percent virtual and there is no longer a reason for her to make the drive from Brighton to our office in Belleville. As much as we miss having her in our office each month, it just makes sense that she submit information electronically so we can maintain her accounts in real time. In addition, she does not lose time delivering her monthly paperwork, which leaves her more time to focus on her business.

MK: What’s on the horizon for your business in 2019?

TH: In a practice as small as ours, there’s no way to follow the traditional path of “climbing the ladder,” so in 2019, our New Year’s resolution is to focus on our team and our practice’s culture to allow choice based on individual interest. We will redevelop each person’s role to allow for personal growth and new challenges. This redefining of our roles will allow us to continue to grow our Bookkeepers Bootcamp and include an additional version of the program to help even more professionals in our industry.

MK: What is your favorite QuickBooks app?

TH: Receipt Bank. We can work in bulk or singularly, depending on the situation. The clients can get us their receipts instantly and easily. We also love that we can send notes to the client relating to a specific receipt, then .there are all the little details like being able to extract the tax.

MK: About how much time would you say apps and cloud-based technologies save you and your business? Please share an example of how an app or other cloud-based technology has helped you save time doing a task or within a workflow.

TH: The use of the cloud saves us well over 10 hours a month on general admin tasks, and easily two to three hours a month, per client, when working directly in their file. For example, we use 17 Hats to automate a lot of client communication. We have emails that are sent out automatically to remind clients to submit the documents we need to do our job. This saves us hours not having to chase after those documents. 17 Hats also helps us to automate our quoting process by collecting all the information we need to quote a client by using questionnaires in the software – we don’t have to waste time on the phone to get those details. It has reduced the time spent on the phone with a client down to five minutes, and then they submit the rest of their information through 17 Hats for us to provide a quote.

MK: What advice do you have for firms that are transitioning from traditional services to advisory services?

TH: My best advice is to embrace it. The sooner you jump in and really implement the changes, the faster you will see results from it. Once this change is made, you will find that the process is much more satisfying for you and your clients.

MK: How does your firm use social media to its advantage?

TH: We use social media to connect with our clients and keep a presence in the community. We also use it as a marketing tool to grow our business. Even more important, however, is that we use social media to connect to others in our profession so that we can continue to grow and support each other. Connecting with others was so important to my journey, and I want to stay connected so that I can contribute back to that community as well.

MK: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?

TH: Be open. There is a lot of change to make this transition, so you have to be an out-of-the-box thinker. Firms need to become solution-oriented and think about what solutions their clients need to reduce their pain points.

MK: What’s your advice for getting online and adopting cloud technologies?

TH: Review everything so that you know what is out there and what is available; however, do not put everything into your toolbox. Only put in the apps that work the best and offer the most value to you. Know about the rest so that you can draw in new tools when unique situations arise.

MK: How would you encourage firms to implement a value-based billing model?

TH: Take advantage of all the free resources that are out there. Make sure you are not underpricing and make a list of EVERYTHING you do in a file for the full year. Most people forget about the annual clean-up work and how much that adds to the overall workload.

MK: If you weren’t an accountant, what would you be and why?

TH: I’ve always been interested in business advising and workflow, so I would probably be a consultant or coach. Thanks to the growth of my business, I have ultimately developed that job for myself.

MK: Like Intuit®, accounting pros help to power prosperity for small businesses. What does “prosperity” mean to you?

TH: Prosperity to me means I’m happy, I have everything that I need. I am able to attain some or many of my wants. I enjoy my day-to-day tasks at work. If I cannot visualize having anything in life that I don’t already have, then I am prosperous.

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