Welcome to the next in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2018 Firms of the Future. This Q&A features Michael Ly, CEO and founder of Reconciled, an online bookkeeping firm, as well as a finalist and the U.S. country winner in the 2018 Firm of the Future contest.
Mindy King: Congratulations on being the Firm of the Future finalist and country winner! Tell us about yourself and your business.
Michael Ly: I am CEO & founder of Reconciled, an online bookkeeping firm that I started in the fall of 2015. We are headquartered in Burlington, Vt., with a satellite office in Charlotte, N.C., and a team of 20 working remotely from six states. We serve entrepreneurs in over a dozen states. Reconciled’s big vision is to serve 10,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses, supporting 100,000 jobs in their communities. Vermont has been a great place to start and build Reconciled, as I am here with my wife raising three young kids. I have an MBA from Babson College and a BS from Arizona State University.
MK: What makes your firm a Firm of the Future?
ML: We basically started with a focus on cloud-based accounting apps and focused our growth on the QuickBooks® Online ecosystem. We leverage these apps and other online tools to allow our employees to work remotely wherever they desire and to serve entrepreneurs all over the USA.
MK: We’ve heard of your success in helping the small business, Ogee, in your contest entry. How did you find each other? And, how were you able to work together to achieve mutual success?
ML: Ogee is a Vermont-based startup that won a pitch competition that we sponsored. As a sponsor, we offered one year’s worth of basic bookkeeping services to them and they continued on as a growing customer with us ever since. We really helped Ogee set up the right systems and processes internally so they could scale their sales.
MK: What’s on the horizon for your business in 2019?
ML: We have doubled every year since we started in revenue, and we aim to do that again in 2019. Our goal is to add 10 new team members and 75-100 customers.
MK: What is your favorite QuickBooks app and why?
ML: Bill.com is one of our favorites because it allows us to handle accounts payable for our customers with ease.
MK: What advice do you have for firms that are transitioning from traditional services to advisory services?
ML: Success in advisory services is all based on the advisors you hire. It’s important to qualify the advisors that become a part of your team to offer these services.
MK: How does your firm use social media to its advantage?
ML: We leverage all the major social media platforms to share relevant content and produce our own content. One primary way we do this is through Facebook Live video interviews of our current customers and interesting entrepreneurs we meet in our journey.
MK: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?
ML: Champion this from the top and find a few young and excited employees who want to help you spearhead this change.
MK: What’s your advice for getting online and adopting cloud technologies?
ML: Join online forums, such as those on Facebook, that have other firm owners who are already doing this. Reach out and learn from them.
MK: How would you encourage firms to implement a value-based billing model?
ML: If you are still doing hourly billing and haven’t jumped to fixed-fee billing, start there first. Once you are comfortable with fixed-fee billing, then you need to start measuring the value of the different types of services you offer, as well as the value that the customer is receiving (i.e., time savings).
MK: If you weren’t an accountant, what would you be and why?
ML: I actually consider myself more of an entrepreneur than an accountant. If I wasn’t running Reconciled, I would probably be running another startup. I could also see myself as a public speaker or pastor, as I currently volunteer in that capacity at my church.
MK: Like Intuit®, accounting pros help to power prosperity for small businesses. What does “prosperity” mean to you?
ML: Prosperity means an entrepreneur is thriving in both their business and their personal life, as well as able to provide jobs for their community and build lasting wealth for himself or herself.
Editor’s note: Watch this video to learn more about Michael’s journey to becoming a Firm of the Future: