Ep.35 Blake Oliver - Apps for accountants, bookkeepers and their clients.Subscribe to Episode 35 of Cloud Stories on iTunes

In this episode Blake Oliver and I discuss his recommended apps for accountants and bookkeepers and his clients.

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Apps for accountants

Transcript:

Heather:  Hi Blake, how are you going?

Blake:  Doing great. Thanks for having me.

Heather:  Awesome.

So last time I spoke with you Blake back in October you I think had just merged your firms. How has that been going?

Blake:  It’s been going great. It’s been a big learning process for me. I had no idea how difficult it was to merge two firms even though we’re both in the cloud on similar systems, there was still a lot to do. So it took about six months from start to finish. Maybe we could have done it a bit sooner but we finally got all of our billing systems, in particular, merged effective the first of this year. So very happy to have that off my plate.

Heather:  Excellent. In hindsight would you of done something differently.

Blake:  I’m trying to think what I would have done differently. Perhaps begun that process a bit sooner rather than wait until the fourth quarter because we all know how busy it gets when you’re…at least for us, you know with our tax year, getting to the end of the tax year and having so much to do. It’s better to do that in the summer which is what we should have done.

Heather:  There’s so many better things to do in the summer though, but yes. It’s always about finding the time to do what you need to do in the business. It’s always a juggling act actually.

Do you think the firm will go and merge with another firm now that it’s done one?

Blake:  I think we are set for a while. We’re going to see how well we can grow. We’re at 25 staff right now and we’re hoping to get to 50 under our own steam so we’ll see how that goes over the next year or two.

Heather:  Oh that’s excellent. As we’ve been having discussions with other accountants recently saying that they’re finding the right talent versus growing their client base versus cash flow is quite a challenge. So just trying to double your staff I imagine is quite a challenge in terms of bringing them all on and processes etcetera.

Blake:  Yes definitely, it’s like the folks over at Karbon, Practice IQ, (Timestamp 5:16) keep saying from all the firms they’ve talked to staffing is the most difficult thing to do and when you’re a totally virtual firm it’s even more difficult as it requires a certain type of person who can be self-motivated and work on their own in their own home office and that’s a rare commodity.

Heather: Yes when you do it yourself you think it’s normal but obviously it’s not normal when…if you give them the freedom whether they can settle down and do that.

Blake:  Definitely.

Heather:  So recently you wrote a very popular blog post Recommended Apps for Accountants & Bookkeepers Blake. That’s why I invited you back on the show and the blog post, I’ve printed it off and I can’t read the title of it now I’ve printed it off. It was your recommended apps for accountants and bookkeepers. It’s a great post and what you’ve done is you’ve split out the apps for an accounting firm and app recommendations for a client. Now what we love about you is that you are, both being an accountant you also love the technology side so I’m sure you’ve tested all of these out-

Blake:  -that’s right. I didn’t want to include anything on here that I haven’t actually at least played around with myself, but most of these apps I use extensively.

Heather: That’s interesting. So let’s go through the apps for the firm initially, if that’s okay with you, and maybe if we can go through them and you highlight what you like about them, why you chose them and if there’s anything like if they’re free or if there’s a price attached to them and whether you know about that.

Hubdoc for document management

So the first one you mentioned for document management was Hubdoc (Timestamp 7:05).

Blake:  Yes and I don’t know if anyone, is anyone using that outside of the United States or is that-

Heather: -I’ve heard of it but I can’t understand how it’s different to Xero. So that was my difficulty in reading.

Is it doing more than what Xero does in terms of storage?

Blake:  Yes, so we have a bit of a different requirement here in the United States because so many clients are still writing paper cheques so one of the big hassles of doing bookkeeping here is that Xero will pull in the bank feed and there will be a bunch of transactions that are simply cheque number so and so. Cheque number so and so. On and on and you have no information about what that is right.  So then you have to go to the client and ask them, “well what was this cheque for?” Hubdoc, one of the things they do is they log in to the bank and they pull in those cheque images, you know the .pdf images-

Heather:  -oh that’s what they’re doing. Okay.

Blake:  They’re pulling that into a folder in the online file storage in Hubdoc. Tech images, the .pdf bank statement and critically for our eCommerce clients the .csv file of the PayPal transactions for the month, they pull that in as well and we prefer to do a manual import of the PayPal .csv for many of our clients each month because the feed is so busy often there is duplicates or issues so we just prefer to do it all at the end of the month.

Heather: Oh okay that’s interesting. Wow, so much learning there.

So does the Hubdoc extract the data from the cheques or is it just bringing in the image?

Blake:  It’s bringing in the image but there’s also an OCR functionality in Hubdoc. I haven’t actually tried applying that to any cheques, but you can upload receipts in Hubdoc and it will do an OCR and data enter the vendor name, date, amount and all that stuff.

Heather: Oh okay, awesome. So people listening in, OCR is optical character recognition if you didn’t know that.

Blake:  Basically doing the data entry.

Heather: Sensational. So the next group of apps you talk about relate to employees and contractors.

Accountingfly for recruiting employees

So the first one you mention was Accountingfly (Timestamp 9:40).

Blake:  Yes and that I think is also another site that is really United States focussed. A recruiting site that we started using at HPC and it’s specifically for accountants. So they do a bit more than just post jobs, they also will vet candidates for firms and so we like that because when we post a job it’s a virtual job so we’ll get 300 – 400 applicants because they come from all over the place, so it’s really important to have somebody doing that first line of reading the resumes and vetting them.

Heather:  Oh yes that’s a massive, massive time sap. A lady spoke at an event I went to yesterday and what she does is she asks them to send in a video of themselves-

Blake: -that’s good-

Heather: -that reduces it from 300 to 10 so I thought that was an interesting one.

Blake:  Yes if they’re really committed they’ll do it and it takes time and effort.

Heather: Yes and it also shows that they’re technically savvy.

Blake:  That too.

Heather: Test that part of their nouse.

Upwork for finding contractors

So the next site you mention is one that I like using as well. It’s Upwork. (Timestamp 10:54).

Blake:  Yes so that used to be called Elance and also ODesk, so they merged and they became Upwork and I’ve been using them for our web development. I’m working with a team in India through Upwork and I’ve started outsourcing the proofreading of our content to a writer in England and just hired somebody to do some new social media banners for us and we’ll see how that goes.

Heather: That’s fantastic.

So do you prefer to work with agencies via Upwork?

Blake:  I guess it’s just…I’m doing both individual and agencies and I tend to just go with whoever has the best samples because that’s probably the best indicator of the quality of their work.

Heather: Yes that’s a good option. As I mentioned, I use Upwork as well and I use it for my website as well like you’re doing. I know that there was a cyclone that went through Asia a little while back and unfortunately she became unavailable but unfortunately she had more things to deal with having the cyclone etcetera but it is good to have those resources working overnight for you. Which I’m sure in the UK you are probably sending it when you leave work and then you come back in in the morning and it’s done for you.

Blake:  Yes if that’s the issue that I do want to communicate more frequently then I have to wait until say 9pm my time and stay up for a few hours going back and forth. Otherwise things can really drag on with a 24 hour turnaround cycle.

Heather: Yes, fair enough.

Zapier for integration

So the next one I’m really interested in exploring in 2016 you talk about integrations and the first one you mention is Zapier. (Timestamp 12:52).

Blake:  Yes, so they’ve been around for a while and sort of just came on my radar due to the social media automation. For example I got really annoyed if I posted something on Instagram I couldn’t get it to post the native picture in Twitter, it would just post a link to the Instagram picture. So it just doesn’t look as good as having that picture natively embedded in Twitter and so Zapier one of the things you can do is you can tell it I want you to repost any pictures from my Instagram account into my Twitter account as native photos and you can specify all sorts of filters. It’s very customisable. It works with Xero. It works with Hubspot which we’re using for marketing. I mean it’s just the possibilities are almost endless.

Heather: Yes and I think you get five free Zaps a month but then you start paying for different plans with that one. But I think if you want to use the Xero zaps which they call the little transactions or the movement or the activity, the Xero one you actually have to pay for.

Blake: Yes that’s what a call a premium integration so you have to pay for that, but it’s well worth it if you’re saving a few minutes here and there.

Heather: Oh absolutely. I think you raised a really important point there because I think both you and I are active on social media and including images in social media is so important especially when we perhaps sometimes talk about dry topics, trying to find interesting images and it really brightens up the topics and I know this is just blog posts which I’ll include a link to in the show notes is beautifully set out and has lots of images all the way through it.

Blake: Oh well thank you.

Heather: Now we know the lady in England proofread it as well.

Blake: There’s actually…the proofreadings important because after a while I kind of become bleary eyed, you know I can’t see my own mistakes but there’s one thing I actually left out of this post which you just reminded me I’m going to have to add, which is the app I used to do these social media images. So if you go to the blog posts at the top you’ll see there’s an image with the title and a nice background-

Heather: -yes, yes-

Canva for graphic design

Blake:  -and that image, I made that for free using an app called Canva. (Timestamp 15:25).

Heather: Yes we love Canva and I think it’s an Australian company.

Blake:  Is it? Well it makes sense because everything good in the cloud is coming out of Australia these days.

Heather: I think it’s an Australian company and I think…there’s this guy who used to be at Apple who is like their ambassador, I can’t think of his name right now, who is their evangelist, that’s the word, he is the Canva evangelist but he used to be Apple. But Canva is a brilliant tool. I absolutely love that.

Note: The gentlemen’s name is Guy Kawasaki.

Blake:  Absolutely.

Heather: So I’ve never heard of Slack.

Slack for curating social media

So what’s Slack? (Timestamp 16:07).

Blake: Oh well Slack is the baby of, the darling child of Silicone Valley these days, it is valued at over a billion dollars-

Heather: -oh my goodness, wow-

Blake:  -and very very quickly grew into a behemoth. It’s hard to describe it if you’ve never used it because it doesn’t really sound that amazing. It’s chat for your team. So some people have used applications like HipChat or perhaps you’ve used Campfire, this is one of these where you set up chatrooms, they call them channels, and you can discuss things but I think what makes it great is that it’s just impeccably designed. Really well done-

Heather: -we like that-

Blake:  -in the accounting world we like to say that it’s got that Xero polish.

Heather: Is it like Yammer then?

Blake: Yes, it’s a similar concept but people just seem to enjoy using it and actually the thing that does differentiate it is that it’s built designed to integrate with other applications. So you can send in notifications from almost anything into Slack. So you know, let’s say you have a ticketing system for support tickets, you could connect that to Slack and send all of those tickets into a channel so your team can get notified of them and discuss them in that channel. I actually use Zapier to send tweets about Xerocon into Slack. We have a channel called Xerocon and-

Heather: -is it full of my photos of the Brisbane Xerocon-

Blake: -yes you’re all over it at the moment. So basically when Xerocon in your area comes around it’s just the Heather channel.

Heather: With lots of lovely images.

Blake: Correct and so I would consider myself a sophisticated Twitter user because I use it a lot right, but if you’re not it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on. So rather than train the whole team on how to follow Twitter, just to follow Xerocon, I set up these rules to send in Xerocon posts into a Slack channel so they can all stay up on what’s going on with it.

Heather: Oh fantastic.

Blake: Same goes with RSS feeds for blogposts. So when Xero posts a new blog it goes into Slack so the team can see it.

Heather: Very good, very good.

Does slack have another meaning in America?

Blake: Well we all just think of slacking off-

Heather: -oh yes so you have that. It’s kind of a bit of a negative word to have for the name of a company.

Blake: I know its funny right. But I think, this is something I really want to write a blog post about given my experience, I think it just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter what you call your company name as long as it’s memorable. Because when you create that brand you are going to create a connotation around it so they’ve overcome the negative connotation.

Heather: And I guess there’s probably no SEO happening on the word slack.

Blake:  Right-

Heather: -they’ve captured the market.

Blake:  It’s funny because along those lines, not to derail the conversation too much, you know there was a bunch of discussion about carbons in your name, Practice IQ changed to Karbon-

Heather: -so to interrupt you there it’s K.A.R.B.O.N.

Blake: Right-

Heather: -for the listeners. Yes sorry Blake.

Blake: So they had to change their name because Reckon apparently owns a product or has a product called Practice IQ, it’s embedded in something else, so Practice IQ changed their name to Karbon and everyone was like oh this is such a weird name, I’m never going to get used to it, but I guarantee you that in a year or two once everyone is used to it it will be totally natural and seem totally appropriate and it’s actually a great name because its short and easy to remember and they’ll own the SEO on it.

Heather: Yes especially with the different spelling and we have, who I just interviewed a few weeks ago, a massive platinum Xero partner called Carbon Accountants/Carbon Bookkeeping but they use the C spelling of the word, but yes create your own spelling and go for it.

Google Sites for documenting processes

So the next group you mention, and this is something that really intrigues me, is knowledge base and within that you mention something called Google Sites. (Timestamp 20:40).

Blake:  Yes so we use Google Apps at HPC and Google Sites an application that’s included with Google Sites. You also get it for free with Gmail and it’s basically a really simple way to create a website and it seems you can use it for a public website, but it’s really primarily designed for projects or teams. So we were looking at maybe adding an application to create an intranet so we can store all this information that we have and we just decided it would be simplest just to use Google Sites for that since its included and its free and I think it’s a great way to get started with creating internal documentation.

Heather: I had no idea it even existed in there. I’m on Google Apps as well and the depth of things you can find in there is quite intriguing.

Blake: They haven’t updated it in a while and I don’t believe they are updating it so it’s not, you know, the most modern content management system but it’s certainly serviceable and you can’t beat the price.

Heather: Yes absolutely, definitely. So next one is one I’m familiar with.

MailChimp for newsletters

For marketing you have selected MailChimp. (Timestamp 21:58).

Blake:  Yes that’s what I use for my personal email list and I think really the two big players are Constant Contact and MailChimp and I just like the little monkey guy.

Heather: The monkey guy is kind of cool isn’t he.

Blake:  It’s a great brand and it’s funny and yes, I really like using it. It takes some know how to figure it out. It took me a while to figure out how to use it right but once you do it’s invaluable for being able to send out your, to repurpose content, so in my post I talk about how I set up what’s called RSS to email campaigns and basically what that means is if I post a blog, if I make a post on my blog, then I’ve got MailChimp set up to automatically email that blog post to my subscribers the next day.

Heather: That’s fantastic and that’s…I actually learnt something there, so I was really excited when I read that.

Blake: It’s great, it saves you so much time rather than having to redo that email-

Heather: -yes absolutely and probably, and you may or may not agree with this, but if you are starting to use MailChimp go into Upwork and hire someone from Upwork to set up MailChimp for you, to set up a template and you may disagree again, but set up for me I found I had a complicated template and I just ripped it apart and had a really really simple elegant (hopefully) template now.

But what’s your template like?

Blake:  Mine is pretty simple. Some people argue that you shouldn’t even use like a html template, you should just make it look like plain text because that’s what are used to reading and it doesn’t seem like its promotional-

Heather: -yes absolutely-

Blake:  -so it’s really, yes I would agree with you completely if you don’t want to spend hours learning how to use this system hire somebody to set it up for you.

Heather: Yes absolutely because that’s definitely hours and I guess mine is text just with boxes so I put all the images in just like all the other ones out there and then I was like going, it was such a massive rock or mountain for me to conquer every time I wanted to send a newsletter out and I thought this is ridiculous because every day I send people postcards and thank you notes and stuff and I find them so easy to send out so I just went, I’m going to rip it all apart and just keep it simple. Even if I’m just saying hope your days going great. Just one or two things. Make it so the template could cope with a really small, brief but perhaps important click through. And it gives you all these analytics in there so I know that for me I’ve got a really high click through rate and you can tell who’s reading it and whether it’s actually being useful or not.

Blake: You’re spot on in the way you’re structuring your emails because from everything that I understand that I’ve read about content marketing these days and email marketing you do not want to be sending out what looks like an email newsletter. If it looks like a printed newsletter that you might get in the mail, nobody is going to read that. Each email you send should just be about one thing and the subject should be very descriptive so people know what they’re getting when they open it and when they open it it should be useful content, like about one thing and then maybe there’s a call to action, something for them to do right-

Heather: -absolutely and I think-

Blake:  -that’s the future-

Heather: -I think the statistics on all the social media channels including email, is email has the highest rate of conversion to get sales through the door.

Blake:  It’s also the cheapest. Best investment of anything you could do.

Heather: Absolutely and I think unfortunately people get snowed under and forget about that.

Blake:  They do.

Heather: Absolutely.

LastPass for password management

So the next one you talk about is password management and again you’ve chosen one of my favourite tools which is LastPass. (Timestamp 26:17).

Blake:  Yes there is really no competition when it comes to LastPass. They’re the only game in town for small business that I’ve found with really good administrator and enterprise controls for basically creating vaults where you can share passwords among team members and we have a lot of passwords, you know for internal use and then we also have the read only logins that the clients give us so really important that our bookkeepers or accountants are not writing those down on sticky notes. It is not okay in our firm and if people are doing that in your firm, if you’re listening, then you definitely want to get on LastPass.

Heather: Definitely and one of the good things about LastPass is if you need to outsource work to another colleague who is somewhere else away you can set it up so they get access to various sites but they don’t even see the passwords, they just get the access to it. So all they log into is LastPass and that makes it really powerful and that makes it easier to deal with collaborative teams without giving them full access to what’s going on. The other thing is it actually generates the passwords as well which is useful.

Blake:  Yes I love it. So all my passwords are randomly generated, unbreakable, same for our team and I love that we can do multifactor authentication with LastPass so that’s also something you should do if you’re using it because all your passwords are in one vault, protected by one login so multifactor means you have a code on your phone which you have to enter. I guess accountants and bookkeepers are familiar with this concept if you’ve ever used a fob to log into a bank account, you know one of those keychain fobs or something-

Heather: -yes absolutely and now Xero has multifactor, two factor, is that what they call it?

Blake:  You can call it multifactor, two factor, I think there’s a few different names for it.

Heather: Okay fair enough.

Grasshopper for phone systems

So Blake the next system you talk about is a phone system called Grasshopper. (Timestamp 28:38).

Blake:  Yes that’s what we’re using at HPC for our 1800 number, I suppose it’s an 888 number toll free and it’s a virtual phone tree that we can configure online, create extensions on the fly for anyone who needs one or any department who needs one. I couldn’t be happier with it.

Heather: And so is that North American based or Unites States of America or do you think its international?

Blake:  You know really I have no idea. I know it is popular with start-ups in the States.

Heather: Okay fair enough. Maybe someone can ping us and let me know.

Asana for project management

The next set of solutions you talk about are around practice management and the first one you mention is Asana. (Timestamp 29:29).

Blake:  I use Asana, or we use Asana at HPC for a lot of non-client work. So that means internal projects such as website development or marketing, anything that’s just for the firm and I’m a big fan of just how lightweight it is, how easy it is to manage lists of tasks.

Heather: Sweet, sweet.

Basecamp for project management

So the next one you mention is Basecamp. (Timestamp 29:57).

Blake: Basecamp, we don’t use that one for the firm since we’re using Asana but I am using Basecamp for a few personal projects and I would say if you don’t have any practice management software in your firm, if you’re not using anything and you just want to get started, Basecamp 3 is the place to start as it is the simplest project management software that you can find online and the price is incredible. I think the new pricing for the new version of Basecamp is either $29 or $79 per month for unlimited projects. It’s just unbelievable. I don’t know how they do it. I think it’s just because they have so many users and they just developed a new feature as part of Basecamp 3 called Clientside which allows you to email you’re clients out of Basecamp and have the replies come into Basecamp so you can conceivably use that as a way to consolidate client communication in the app if you’re disciplined about it.

Heather: Wow that’s very interesting. That’s very powerful as well isn’t it.

Blake:  They’ve been very popular with agencies up until now. Like graphic design agencies, advertising agencies, any project based service provider but not so much for accounting firms because we don’t really have one off projects we have ongoing, but I think with these new developments it could be an option.

Heather: Yes okay. It’s interesting isn’t it that’s going that way.

Karbon for practice management

So, next one on the list is Karbon which we were just talking about earlier. (Timestamp 31:47).

Blake:  Yes and they are still in beta but I have been fortunate enough to see the product in its development. I’m very intrigued by it and I think it could be the next big thing in accounting practice management software, well really the only thing because as far as I know there’s isn’t anything in the cloud that is modern and specific just to accountants. It all seems to be other generalised practice management software/project management software that’s been adapted for our industry but Stuart McLeod (Note: the transcriber mistakenly spelt Stuart’s name as McCloud which made me chuckle)  is doing this-

Heather: -Yes absolutely. I went to a presentation with Wayne Schmidt yesterday. I’m not sure if you’ve come across Wayne yet but he did a presentation and showed us how it worked and it looks very sleek and definitely something to, you can sign up to the beta now and get in early and test it out and they’re being very receptive about what people want and asking questions saying what do you want from this and one of the lead product design on it is also from old Xero from the original Xero crew, Sarah Goepel.

Blake:  And I think the real game changer I think with Karbon is going to be the fact that there’s full email integration so it connects to your Gmail and to your office365 accounts and it pulls in all the client emails and then you can delegate and respond inside of Karbon with the whole team. I know for me that’s always been the biggest challenge is emails from clients are, if you have a team based approach right, emails are everywhere and you have no idea what’s really going on.

Heather: Absolutely, absolutely

Blake:  So if they can do it right then it will be a very valuable thing.

Heather: Excellent.

Slack for team chat

So the next one is Slack which you’ve already sort of talked about Slack. (Timestamp 33:58).

 What’s interesting is you say that your CEO says that using that solution has reduced his email load by over 50%. That’s amazing.

Blake:  It’s true. There’s other people who say similar things online and it makes sense. You know you’re cutting out a lot of internal email that doesn’t need to happen.

Heather: Oh okay so it’s cutting out all those internal emails. Fair enough. Awesome.

PandaDoc for e-signatures

So moving along you then go into the sales area and the first one you mention in the sales are is PandaDoc. (Timestamp 34:34).

Blake: PandaDoc is the new product from the same team behind Quote Roller and it’s interesting because it’s a document creation system so think of it like Google Docs or a simple version of Google Docs, combined with an electronic signature and proposal software. So you can use it to create really beautiful customised service agreement or engagement letters and then send those to the client. You can embed video images, the client can view a pricing table, they can accept everything all the terms and electronically sign right on their phone. So really. really well done and what neat about it you can use it for more than just proposals. You can use it for really anything you can think of where you might want to send a document to a client and have them sign it, or not, you don’t even have to have them sign it. You can use it just to send something and know that they’ve viewed it thanks to the tracking.

Heather: And I think offering them something sleek, upfront at the very start of the relationship really sets the scene of what they expect from you and what you expect from them, in sort of saying we’re a high tech but sort of visually beautiful company to be dealing with.

Blake:  Absolutely and they really like the fact that we’ve combined a bunch of steps they used to have with their service providers so it used to be we sent the engagement letter, they sign the engagement letter, then we sent an ACH authorisation and then they return that so we can charge them and then we sent them another document. So this way we combine all those things into one document. So once they’ve signed it we can proceed and what we like from our perspective, they can’t sign the document and engage us for services unless they’ve filled out their billing information.

Heather: Sweet. Very good.

So do you take the money off them directly?

Blake: So we get an authorisation to debit their bank account monthly for the recurring charge.

Heather: Sweet. That’s very very very smart.

Blake:  So then we’re not waiting for them to pay us.

Heather: Yes so you haven’t mentioned that in the article but I think that’s a very important tip for people out there listening. Not that people, the accountants, talk too much about cashflow but I’m sure it must be an issue.

Hubspot CRM for CRM

So the next one you mention is Hubspot CRM. (Timestamp 37:17).

Blake: HubSpot CRM is a free CRM, hard to beat the price of free when it comes to that market which can be pretty darn expensive. They give it away for free as a way to promote their marketing platform, which was what came first. So we happened to be on their marketing platform that’s why when their CRM came out we jumped on that and the benefit is all the contact information for a client flows from the moment they come to our website all the way through to when they become a client. It’s not separate systems and they have an integration with PandaDoc which is a big reason that we’re using PandaDoc so we can actually create those proposals right from inside the CRM.

Heather: What do you mean their marketing platform?

Blake:  So it’s difficult to describe because it’s so robust, but basically HubSpot takes a lot of tools that you might have previously pieced together such as MailChimp for email or maybe WordPress for your blog or Buffer for your social media management and it does all of those things. So it will manage you landing pages for your website, it can even be your website. It will manage all your social media publishing, you can do contact management in there. It’s really designed to be a sales and marketing app, all inclusive.

Heather: And that’s the part that you pay for but the actual CRM is free.

Blake:  The CRMs free so you can just use that for free if you want and the marketing platform is pricey once you combined all those tools. You know it’s going to be several hundred dollars a month. I can’t remember what their-

Heather: -it starts at $270 a month with an upfront $690 for the suite.

Blake: Not for the smaller firms I would say. You really got to be committed to doing content marketing. I don’t think it’s necessary for most firms. You can do it very well with individual products.

Heather: Yes and perhaps as you’ve seen a lot of people start out enthusiastically with their blogs and then they just sort of end up with Latin words sitting there when you go and read them.

Blake: Exactly, exactly. So I would say that if you’re on WordPress and you’re doing good content marketing and you’re sort of reaching the limits of what you’re using then look at HubSpot.

Sidekick for CRM

Heather: And you say there’s a Chrome plugin called Sidekick. (Timestamp 40:08).

Blake: Yes so they have a separate product called Sidekick which you don’t even have to use HubSpot to use that, what it does is it’s a plugin for Chrome that gives you additional features in your Gmail account so that you can send emails and track if the recipient is opening them among other things. So really neat for the sales team to know when a potential customer opened that email and get the notification on their desktops that they can maybe pick up the phone and call them and say hey, did you by change read the email I sent and you know that they actually just read it two minutes ago.

Heather: Ah so that’s why I get those spooky phone calls.

Blake: That’s why everyone’s being tracked all the time now.

Heather: It appears to be free, am I reading that correct?

Blake: Yes so you can track up to 200 emails per month for free so worth trying out and if you want more than that you’ve got to pay $10 per month and then they have another plan which I think is called Sidekick for Business, which is I want to say $50 per month that gives you templates, email templates you can use and other features.

Heather: Fair enough and for $10 per month if it saves you that amount or if it gains you goodness, just one client a year from doing a ring up it’s worth having.

Blake:  And now they’ve just added the ability to schedule emails so you can write that email to your lead at 10pm at night and have it sent out to them at 9 in the morning and they will think that you’re crazy.

Heather: Yes absolutely and that’s a really important thing in the cloud world is just because you’re working at 10pm at night or like I work frequently at 2 or 3am in the morning, but that’s my choice. You don’t send out the emails at that time because it looks bad-

Blake: -it looks a bit odd, yes especially with the more traditional type of client.

Heather: Yes absolutely.

Buffer for social media

So then moving on from HubSpot for social media you mention Buffer. (Timestamp 42:13).

Blake: I should make it clear I use HubSpot for my firm and I use Buffer for my personal social media.  I like to keep them as separate as I can so I don’t go insane. But yes Buffer is free and basically it lets you post content into multiple social media channels at one time. So rather than having to go onto Twitter and post something and then go onto LinkedIn and post something and then go onto Facebook and post something. You can click the button one time and post in all three places.

Heather: And I think it allows you to post images as well.

Doesn’t it allow you to post native images as well? What we were talking about before?

Blake:  Yes so you can attach images to those posts and really the key feature too is it will schedule out your posts so the important thing on social media is to be active but not to be too active because then you’ll just annoy people so you don’t want to go, let’s say you’re a small firm and you only have time to do social media once a week and you say I’m going to do it on Friday afternoons because I’m not going to do client work then, right? So you set aside 30 minutes on Friday afternoon to post some stuff. Well if you post it all in those 30 minutes then you’ve just wasted your time because nobody’s reading it right then. So you take those 10 articles and Buffer will spread them out over the week on a schedule of your choosing. So post twice a day, once in the morning, once in the afternoon, five days a week, you queue up those posts, it sends them on out.

Heather: And I always, there are defined analytical times of the best times to send out but I always say to people post it out during the time of the day when you actually feel like having a cup of tea or taking a break. So kind of like 10.30am and then sort of 4.30am when you’re having that little distracted downtime perhaps.

Blake: Well you mean 4.30pm-

Heather: -I mean 4.30pm-

Blake: – although I know-

Heather: -I meant 4.30pm. But yes-

Blake:  And you’ll frequently find me up at 2 or 3 in the morning as well, just when I get on a kick I like to work and if I’m active on Twitter at that time, you know, my friends in Australia will appreciate it but you know, none of my potential customers here will.

Heather: Absolutely, absolutely and I think if you are going to sit down and say okay I’m going to spend 30 minutes on social media, sometimes just go and actually interact with people, which you do I’m not suggesting you don’t, interact with people. Just reply to Tweets that are of interest to you and actually connect with people and it may not be an instant ROI but one of the things I found interesting was connecting with businesses who I see talking about Xero who are actually Xero customers. Not accountants. Not bookkeepers and sort of you then easily created that connection with them so when they do require support you may be first at hand at who they contact.

Blake: Absolutely and like you said, interacting on social media is the most important thing you can do and I can’t tell you, or I could tell you,

I’ve made so many great connections thanks to being active on primarily Twitter and Facebook and different groups and one I have to give credit to is the Xero Mastermind group. (Timestamp 46:16).

Heather: Oh thank you.

Blake:  I really like that, it’s been great and it’s a great way to meet other people in the community, build relationships, learn about apps, ask questions. Why waste your time doing research when you might be able to just post a question into a group and hopefully get the answer.

Heather: Oh absolutely and it’s nice with the internet as it is to actually have focussed group for those focus discussion. So in the Xero Mastermind group I’m trying to invite in all the sort of high level Xero advisers and I do actually go out and sort of, come in and join the group etcetera but then having these high level discussion that are really interesting and having people come in from different perspectives and I think what I’ve seen is some people are a bit shocked that oh, initially, this is a global discussion. This is not just my town discussion and that actually in the cloud world I don’t know how many of your clients are coming from overseas but for some of us it has been interesting growing a global business rather than just a business that’s 25 kilometres from your home.

Blake:  And it’s interesting that you bring that up because this is I would say the biggest thing that’s happening with my firm, with HPC, is that we have sort of accidentally fallen into a niche of serving companies outside of the United States that want to come here. Because of Xero, thanks to Xero and the add-on ecosystem and all of these apps in Australia and New Zealand people are finding us from Australia and new Zealand and Bruce Phillips our CEO, he’s gone over and he’s been at Xerocon and he’s made these relationships so now we’re one of the first firms that people call when they want to come here and establish a subsidiary in the States so we’re actually doing a whole series of webinars and content that I’m producing that should be coming out shortly about how do you do that. What are the steps you take, legally, accounting wise, insurance wise and it’s all thanks to this globalisation of cloud accounting.

Heather: Hey well that’s awesome. That means pretty much all of your holidays could be tax deductible then Blake.

Blake: I’m really hoping to get over and visit soon because it definitely would be. As long as there’s a Xerocon then I’m totally safe.

Heather: Well if you’re niche market is developing people outside of America surely that’s everything and anything.

Blake:  And we keep joking that you know, we need some clients in the Bahamas, we need some clients in some island nations would be great too.

Heather: Yes absolutely, but the-

Heather: -they are having Xerocon through Asia so Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong. Unfortunately its next month so not enough time to schedule a trip for me but it is very exciting to see that happening.

Heather: Sensational.

Bizink Online for websites with curated content

So the next thing we went on to and the final grouping for the apps for accountancy is websites and the first one you mention is Bizink Online. (Timestamp 49:56).

Blake: Yes so I got to know them a bit, and I don’t even know how I met Matt from Bizink Online, but we got to know each other online and he showed me the product and I participated in one of his webinars about a topic that was common to both of us and I just think it’s brilliant and the think that they do that is different than other website creators for accountants is they have built a system where they will give you content to put on your blog. So if you have zero time to post blogs you should look at these guys because they will give the posts to you and having something is certainly better than having nothing.

Heather: Yes absolutely and they look like they’re based, I went and had a look, they look like they’re based in New Zealand.

Blake:  Yes I think so. I lose track of where everyone is.

Heather: Yes I did look and it looked like they were based in New Zealand so smart guys and they can, they said they will make it centric to whatever software solution that you are using and will give you little eBooks etc that will download from your site and-

Blake: -and what I really love is that they do this all within their platform. So they’ve modified WordPress and so what they’ll do is automatically post draft blog posts into your WordPress installation to your site every week and then you can go in, review them and edit them and publish them. So it’s almost like the Xero to Xero invoicing where you can just send an invoice right into Xero.

Heather: So why are they using a plugin to do that?

Blake: They’ve built their own system on WordPress which is open software.

Heather: Oh that’s interesting. Yes that’s very interesting.

Blake:  I hope I got that right. If I didn’t then somebody correct me but that’s my understanding of how it works.

Heather: Yes it sounds like unless, I couldn’t imagine them logging into everyone’s WordPress site because that would take forever.

Blake:  Oh they’re not.

SquareSpace for websites

Heather: And the final one you mention is Squarespace. (Timestamp 52:05).

Blake:  So if you are looking at this blog you are looking at my Squarespace website and I think I first heard about them because they advertise on NPR, National Public Radio here, and I was looking for something simple to use for my personal website. I’d been using WordPress which I self-hosted for some while and WordPress is great, don’t get me wrong. But if you are not a web developer it can be a pain to customise it and configure it and sometimes you want something that’s just a little more limited and simple. So that’s what I’m using and the think I like about it is the templates are just gorgeous and they’re responsive so they work on both iPads and mobiles and desktops and everything looks great.

Heather: Yes and it was really easy to read your article on a mobile device which is very important these days-

Blake: -very important

Heather: Sorry I talked over you then. Sorry.

Blake: Oh no problem. I would just say that like you said, so many people are looking at the websites on mobile so it’s got to be very readable and this is a very affordable solution. I pay $10 per month for it and they don’t charge me if I have a lot of hits, that’s just what it is.

Heather: That’s fantastic. Well that’s a good way for people to at least get started perhaps before they do something else, capture you’re domain name, get a simple and basic website up there and get some images up there and tell people what your services are.

Blake:  And you should know if you don’t have a website and you’re looking to set one up, if you do an annual plan with Squarespace they’ll give you the domain for free and they’ll register it for you. So you won’t have to figure out how to do that which I think is one of the hardest parts of setting up a website is figuring how to configure the DNS server. So just do it through Squarespace, pay for the annual and they have a new feature called cover pages which is an even less expensive monthly fee you get one page, so it’s a one page website. You can put your bio there; you can put a link to email you. Just get something online so you actually have a presence and there’s no excuse not to start.

Heather: Oh yes absolutely, absolutely. Thank you so much. That was all of the apps for your accounting firm. So let’s take, if you’ve still got the energy to continue, let’s go through the apps for your clients and I think we will have talked about a few of these but that would be sensational. So these apps for our clients.

Apps for clients

Xero for accounting

Now the first one is Xero (Timestamp 55:07).so I’m sure everyone listening in has an idea about Xero so I’ll skip that one. But if we jump across to-

Blake:  -I don’t know, Rod Drury might not be too happy with you-

Heather: -okay. You tell me why you love Xero. Just so Rod knows why you love Xero then Blake.

Blake: Well one thing that doesn’t get mentioned

Heather: – you talk about it as much as you want.

Blake:  The unlimited users. So we talk about beautiful design is great. We all love beautiful design, right. But the unlimited users for me at least, compared to what our options are here in the States is key because otherwise our clients are sharing logins or bookkeepers are sharing logins and there’s nothing worse than having something go wrong and not having the audit trail to figure out who did it.

Heather: Yes absolutely and it’s unlimited simultaneous logins for anyone listening in who has not tested that before. Everyone can be logged in at the same time and it doesn’t slow you down, unless you’re all in the same office on the same internet bandwidth, it doesn’t slow down at all and you mentioned a really good thing there that stresses me out a little bit. Some of the accounting firms are just going OK, we’re ABC Accountants and the login is just going to be ABC Accountants and the password is going to be 123 and we’re all going to use the same one. Is that what you’re doing or it doesn’t sound like it.

Blake: That is a terrible idea. If you’re doing that you should lose your accreditation. Lose your licence because the whole point of, one of the great things in using Xero the fact that you don’t have to do that. Every single user should have their own login, it should be secured by two factor authentication and you should be delegating access to the files using the My Xero dashboard.

Heather: Hallelujah, yes and that’s exactly what I believe. So practically, you’ve got 25 people in your office and if a file comes along, realistically maybe 8- 10 people actually need to go in and look at that. So one might check it out, one might go and fix up one particular area they’re specialist in, someone might go and do the fixed assets etc, someone might go and check it for the financial reports. Do you have all 8 of them setting up their own user ID in there?

Blake: Yes so we have our Operations Manager is the Practice Administrator so she accepts the invite for the Xero file if say the client transfers one and then she can delegate access very easily to anyone who needs it at the firm, you know using her login and so we periodically review that and remove access if somebody doesn’t need it anymore and it’s very easy to manage. No complaints from anyone.

Heather: Excellent. I just wanted to hear you say that because I’m a small firm and it doesn’t bother me but for other bigger firms they’re doing the single login which seems they’re the ones actually putting the security issues at risk there but they keep saying to me oh we don’t want our clients to see Jan, Jim & Jacob have logged in. But they have different specialities.

Blake:  It’s true but I would say that you actually, from a marketing perspective, you should be promoting your employees and your individuals and your firm, and you should be making your clients aware of who these people are and having them interact directly and if you still don’t’ think that’s a good idea just think about the fact you are opening your firm up to litigation and losses because your cyber risk insurance policy is not going to cover you if an employee steals your master login and downloads the data for your several hundred clients and sells that or does something malicious with it. You’re going to be on the hook for that in most cases because you’re violating basic security policies.

Heather: Yes that’s such a good point so thank you for raising that. We love Xero and it’s a highly secure system but it’s only as secure as the weakest link.

Blake: That’s true, which is the people in the firm.

Heather: Hopefully we’ve stopped that.

So the next group you talk about is accounts payable and you mention Bill.com (Timestamp 59:52).

Blake: Bill.com is huge here in the States because we have paper cheques. We are insane. There’s no other way to describe it. I mean, you know, you can talk all you want about Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, we are absolutely insane for using paper cheques. It’s even worse. You have to deal with it as accountants and the way we deal with it is using Bill.com. So it allows us to do cash control for our clients remotely without having to print and mail cheques.

Heather: So do any of the people, as you brought it up, running for the presidential campaign, have any of them raised paper cheques.

Blake: Wait I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand the question.

Heather: Does any of the people who are, because you don’t have your presidential candidates yet do you, you’re in the state of running at the moment.

Blake: Right, we’re in the primaries.

Heather: So have any of them said, okay we need to get rid of paper cheques?

Blake:  Oh it’s not even on the radar.

Heather: Not even on the radar. But it looks like it has such a massive impact to so many people there.

Blake: It certainly would. We’re dealing with some more fundamental issues right now.

Heather: Yes I totally get that but you have so many issues that you sort of lay out there and-

Blake: -the issue is that we have thousands of banks in the United States so for us to have an end to paper cheques would mean the banks would need to all get along and agree on something and it’s just not going to happen with that kind of crowd going on. It would take an act of congress.

Heather: Fair enough, fair enough.

Blake:  And our congress doesn’t like to do much at all.

uCollect for accounts receivable

Heather: Okay, fair enough. So the next one you mention is accounts receivable and you mention a solution called uCollect. (Timestamp 1:01:57).

Blake: Yes so that is one of my new favourites and they, that’s another, I think they’re Aust-

Heather: -I think they’re New Zealand actually.

Blake:  New Zealand, okay. So we have an issue with many small businesses where they have been using the credit card merchant processor built into QuickBooks. That’s how a lot of small businesses get started. Unfortunately you know because Intuit controls the vertical integration of its products, especially the credit card processing, the fees are not good in many cases. So businesses are paying merchant fees that are really unreasonable. uCollect allows them to move over to Xero. Previously there hasn’t been an option and it states for Xero with credit card processing where, it’s when the business needs to initiate the credit card charge so you’re not sending an invoice to your client awaiting to pay, you want to process that credit card charge based on an invoice that you’ve generated with a credit card number you have in your system.  uCollect enables us to do that for clients. They can automatically collect on invoices and save credit card information and ACH information.

Heather: Oh fantastic. So that is a New Zealand company. It’s the brainchild of Peter McCarroll who is both New Zealand and Canadian CPA so sort of crossing Northern and Southern Hemisphere there with that solution. That’s really interesting and this is something I’m seeing is the add-ons are actually bringing people to Xero and that’s what you seem to be suggesting there.

Blake: Oh absolutely, I’m implementing it right now for a client in Santa Monica who I’ve been trying to get her to switch from QuickBooks to Xero for 2- 3 years now. Couldn’t do it because she just didn’t see the reason to switch, everything was working well enough right. Well when I told her by switching to uCollect and Forte for credit card processing combined with Xero for the accounting I could save her $10,000 a year in credit card processing fees then she listened to me.

Heather: Wow, wow. Yes definitely.

Blake:  Because what she’s doing is she’s going to switch from allowing all of her customers to pay with credit card to requiring them to, well not requiring them but basically asking them to pay with ACH and if they don’t want to do that they can pay with a credit card but she will charge a processing fee. So she’s going to transfer the cost of credit card processing to the clients which she can do because she’s a service provider and has a waiting list so why should she be absorbing that cost.

Heather: Absolutely, absolutely and goodness it’s nice when an accountant can come along and go here, let me find $10,000-

Blake: -let me save you money rather than costing it. That’s the golden ticket for us because once we can do that and save clients’ money then our fees are covered. I can charge a lot more for my services because I’ve already created value.

Heather: Absolutely and that’s $10,000 per year if she’s in business for another 20 years that’s $200,000. You know but it’s even more than that it’s dramatically changing business cashflow.

Blake: So that is truly an amazing story from the Xero ecosystem and we have another one of the blog that I linked there-

Heather: -the Maui Magazines.

Blake:  Yes so we have a client in Hawaii and it’s a fun story because I love, you know, it’s a fun business right in Maui and they say that they’ve saved $100,000 in capital by switching to Xero plus add-ons which included uCollect. They’ve reduced their outstanding receivables by that much. You know that’s pretty amazing.

Heather: It is and that’s astonishing and it just makes it all worthwhile that you know that’s going back and it’s so straightforward to get these things in.

Deputy for employee scheduling

So the next scheduling, the next tool that you talk about is employee scheduling and the one you mention is Deputy. (Timestamp 1:06:41).

Blake: Deputy is great. You know I recommend it constantly to our clients who are looking for time clock solutions for employees. I don’t even know where to begin with them. For instance you can use iPads for your time clock system, you can have employees clock in on their mobile devices, it will log their GPS coordinates so you know where they are if they’re at work. It syncs with payroll. There’s really no compare when it comes to scheduling.

Heather: And as soon as you move from Excel to a cloud based rostering solution that’s sleek like Deputy, you’re going to save on lost employee time-

Blake:  -oh so much-

Heather: -because if the employee clocks in 15 minutes late every day you are tracking that whereas you wouldn’t on an Excel spreadsheet as it’s just been pencilled in because they wouldn’t say it. They’d just say I’m here.

Blake: My favourite thing, and I’ve participated in some presentations with Russell who is the rep here in the US and he has an Apple watch and he can actually, with the app on his watch, if an employee calls in sick, well first of all they don’t call in sick anymore they can do it on the app, so if the employee gets sick they roll over, grab their phone while they’re in bed and they say I’m sick in the app, well the app then notifies the owner who gets the ping on their watch and from their watch they can then send out that shift to the entire workforce saying who wants to claim this 6 hour shift today. And then somebody can claim it on their phone. There’s no phone calls necessary.

Heather: Yes absolutely. I thought you were going to say the owner can then look back at the Apple watch on the employees hand and tell his temperature and determine whether or not he is sick or not.

Blake: You know that may be coming.

Heather: Plug in, send your blood in.

Blake:  If they can track our emails they can probably at some point track our biometrics I’m sure.

Heather: Absolutely, absolutely. My telephone tells me everyday how much I’ve walked during the day so it’s must be tracking it.

Blake: Now that’s just depressing for me it would say you know, like 10 feet because you’ve walked back and forth from your desk to your refrigerator.

Heather: Fantastic. Well encourage it, you can double that every day quite easily.

Expensify for expense reimbursements

So you then talk about expense reporting and the solution that you mention is Expensify. (Timestamp 1:09:34).

Blake: Yes so I think that is also another US centric application so they started here and it’s a very interesting product. They basically revolutionised expense reports and I love the motto. The motto is “burn your receipts” and another one is “expense reports that don’t suck”. So they’ve had an interesting journey because they became successful and employees in large corporations would start using Expensify to use their own expense reports and eventually the accounting departments would catch wind of it and the whole company would switch over to Expensify so that kind of guerrilla tactic of getting large businesses to adopt your product worked really well for them and that’s actually an experience they talk about on a blog post for a friend of mine with Forbes Travel Guide. He started using Expensify at my recommendation and then the accounting department was blown away by the quality of his expense reports that they switched the whole company to use it.

Heather: Sweet, sweet. Was he a travel writer with Forbes?

Blake:  Yes he is a, previously a Hotel Inspector-

Heather: -oh I don’t know if I’d like to be Hotel Inspector-

Blake: -so you know like those 4 and 5 star ratings, well they don’t just make those up you have to earn those and so his job, poor guy right, his job was to go to 4 and 5 star resorts around the world and inspect them in detail and write about it for internal reporting purposes.

Heather: Fair enough, fair enough. My friends a luxury travel writer so I’m always envious of that so she has all this luxury sort of $20,000 a night jaunts, bless her, but she says its hard work. I don’t believe her though.

Blake: Yes you know it’s funny he really did have to work and I can see how after you do it a few times you would become sort of immune to it. Very interesting but I actually got to go once with him because these inspectors and writers have to maintain their cover and they can’t always be alone so I was the guest.

Heather: Did you get the breakfast menu and tick everything so you could test every single item on the breakfast menu?

Blake: You can’t do that unfortunately but we did have a very very nice dinner at the restaurant at the hotel, fixed course, this was the Mandarin Oriental in Miami so it’s pretty nice.

Heather: Oh sounds pretty nice.

Receipt Bank for receipt management

So moving on to one of our favourite tools receipt management and the list you have Receipt Bank. (Timestamp 1:12:37).

Blake: Receipt Bank. Got to love Receipt Bank.

Heather: Got to love Receipt Bank.

Blake:  It’s one of those tools that we give to all of our clients, we don’t charge them anything extra for it, we think it saves us so much time that it’s worth it.

Heather: So you’re doing the bookkeeping for your clients as well?

Blake: Yes, so we’re a full service shop-

Heather: –so you’re saying you’re doing bookkeeping with us and part of that is you’re taking on Receipt Bank. Is that what you’re saying?

Blake: Yes so we train them how to use it, you know get them set up on their mobiles so they can take pictures instead of their Dropbox accounts so they can load receipts in there if that’s what they like and then that’s how they are used to sending transactions to us.

Heather: Excellent, excellent, I love it.

Freshbooks & Harvest for time tracking & invoicing

So then the next one you talk about is time tracking and invoicing and you talk about Freshbooks. (Timestamp 1:13:30).

Blake: Yes there’s three in this category that we’ve got; Freshbooks, Harvest and MinuteDock and you know Freshbooks and Harvest I’d kind of group those together. They’re very similar in that they’re time tracking tool and the purpose is to generate invoices and send those to your clients and get paid. They’re not full accounting solutions, even though Freshbooks calls itself cloud accounting it’s not. Accountants would dispute that because its single entry does not produce a true balance sheet. Also, but a lot of clients get started on it because it’s an excellent tool for schedule C filers who in our case, I should explain that, it means that you’re not, let’s say you’re just a sole proprietor and you don’t have a corporation, you’re just a freelancer working for yourself. You don’t need a balance sheet in the US. You can use a system like Freshbooks where you’re just invoicing system and you can keep track of expenses but you don’t need a full accounting system.

Heather: Okay, fair enough.

Blake: So a lot of them start using that because it’s super simple and easy and then they graduate to the point where they need us to do the books but to not disturb their set up they have we will do the books in Xero and let them keep using Freshbooks and integrate the two.  It keeps the clients happy.

Heather: Yes, not such a big change for them. I was confused by all the Freshbooks conversations and the Harvest conversations sometimes so that’s explained it very for us.

Blake: It’s a strange thing I don’t know if it’s this way in Australia, is it this way in Australia where you know if you’re an individual in business for yourself and you don’t have a corporation, what is your-

Heather: -if you’re an individual without a corporation you basically have to, and you’re not registered for GST, if you’re not registered for GST you just basically have to submit your summary income and your summary expenses which sounds like very simple-

Blake: -similar things-

Heather: -yes similar thing to that. As soon as you are charging GST which is $75,000 AUD turnover or I think its $200,000 international turnover, so the moneys coming in from overseas then you have to report in more detail including what has been collected and what’s been paid.

Blake: Got it, got it. So for us that requirement I believe, I’m not a tax guy so I’m not exactly sure, but I believe its $1,000,000 so there’s a lot more people here, larger percentage of freelancers, who don’t have to do any of that more complicated reporting.

Heather: Are you seeing a growing number of soloists and freelancers or is that always been the case?

Blake: You know the talk is the United States is moving towards a gig economy, meaning that people are moving away from traditional employment to freelance employment or having multiple jobs. Maybe somebody’s an Uber driver and they’re a freelance graphic designer too and they don’t have a traditional job. That’s what everyone’s talking about but I haven’t yet actually seen any studies that back that up.

Heather: It sounds groovy and it sounds like a tv presenter would like to talk about.

Blake: But are people really moving in that direction, it’s hard to say and who knows what’s going to happen because there’s all these law suits going on right now about, you know like Uber is facing class action law suits in California from drivers who say that they should be employees not independent contractors so this may all be irrelevant anyway if large companies have to employ people.

MinuteDock for time tracking & invoicing

Heather: Oh yes that’s interesting and so we’ll highlight that you also mentioned MinuteDock (Timestamp 1:17:42). which I use MinuteDock as well which is a great New Zealand company. I interviewed him, Jarrod Armstrong, the founder of the MinuteDock.

Blake: Jarrod’s great and I should say that MinuteDock is last in the section but really it should be at the top of everyone’s list, especially accountants, bookkeepers because it’s the best time tracking app for entry-

Heather: -Jarrod will be so happy you said that.

Blake: He can quote me on that. We used it for two years at Cloud Sourced Accounting, which was my prior firm, and our bookkeepers actually liked it which is strong praise for a time tracking application.

Heather: I think you’re actually front page of his website saying how much you like it-

Blake: -oh am I-

Heather: -yes I think so because I harassed him and said why is he front page and not me.

Blake: Now he can take a picture of me with my thumbs up.

Square for payments

Heather: Oh okay, fantastic. So then, oh I’m confused now. The payments and its Square. Oh okay Square (Timestamp 1:18:46).  and Squarespace are different. There you go.

Blake: Yes Square and Squarespace are different. Squarespace is the website where Square is the payment processing-

Heather: –they’re not related at all?

Blake: No, they aren’t. No integration.

Heather: And there’s no integration as well.

Blake: Not that I, no I don’t think, no there isn’t. Or is there.

Heather: No I don’t know. You don’t need to-

Blake: -it would be very confusing if there were. Square is they started out with these mag stripe card readers that you plug into the headphone jack on your phone and they’ve expanded into point of sale. They even do payroll in California now. You can send invoices online. They’ve got a great Xero integration so that’s another way our clients can be doing their own thing, what I call a front of room app, and we do the back room app in Xero. Really great.

Gusto for payroll

Heather: Excellent and I didn’t even know I was confused about them but I obviously was and I bet other people were as well between the Square and the SquareSpace thing there. But thank you for clarifying that Blake.  So onto payroll. So this is probably all going to be very American centric but the first one you mention is Gusto. (Timestamp 1:20:04).

Blake: Yes so Gusto used to be called Zen Payroll last year and they have expanded from payroll into workers compensation, insurance and employee health benefits which they’re now offering in California so they’re aiming to be a full service payroll and HR adviser. I started using Gusto early on when they had you know a dozen employees and there’s I would say it’s just got a great design, easy to use and one of my favourite things is that you can put the payroll on autopilot so you set it up and it runs automatically for salaried employees every pay period-

Heather: -oh that’s so good. People keep saying why I can’t do that in Xero to me, and I’m like going it’s automated but that bits not automated-

Blake: -and for those of you listening at Xero that is one of our, it would make us so happy at HPC and it would make a lot of accountants happy if we could check a box to have the payroll tax filings and the payroll run, you know certain things run automatically.

Heather: Automatically. Love that.

Blake: Because the worst thing if you’re working with dozens and dozens of clients, if one of your accountants forgets to process a tax filing that could be penalties of thousands of dollars then it’s really the firm that has to cover that.

Heather: Yes absolutely, absolutely and it’s such a simple thing and there’s so many things that are automated that would be highly desirable. Excellent.

Blake: So that’s why we stay with Gusto is the automation wasn’t a really big part of it and then I get into the section, more of a discussion on Xero payroll which, you know the one reason we haven’t yet, the development in the US has been really slow. Basically because we have 50 states to deal with and local payroll taxes to deal with so it’s not one tax authority you’ve got to report to, you’ve got to report to 50 or more and some of them in some of the smaller and less populated states don’t even allow for electronic filing believe it or not.

Heather: Oh my goodness.

Blake: Yes so try to be an online payroll processor where you’ve got taxing authorities that don’t let people file electronically so I sympathise with them but hopefully it will be in all 50 states soon.

Spotlight Reporting for reporting

Heather: So moving on the next area is reporting and the first on you mention is Spotlight Reporting. (Timestamp 1:22:52).

Blake: Spotlight Reporting we are what they call super VCFO-

Heather: -a super VCFO-

Blake: -yes they have a package for accountants here. We get Spotlight for all our clients-

Heather: -oh excellent-

Blake: -and so we give them the Spotlight dashboard for free-

Heather: -oh wow they must love that.

Blake: Yes and we don’t charge for it because we found it’s a great tool for getting clients to start talking to us about their bigger picture concerns.

Heather: So you give them Spotlight and you get more work because they come back, the look at it and then they ask you more questions and it generates more work for you.

Blake: Exactly and I should clarify we’re not giving them the full Spotlight Reporting. We’re giving them just the dashboard-

Heather: -the dashboard.

Blake: Yes the dashboards that one page of visual report. So yes so even if it get just a few clients to engage us for virtual CFO services well worth it, well worth it.

Heather: Yes absolutely, absolutely. As accountants that’s where we want to be. We want to get all the numbers correct but we want to take it from there and be able to look at their numbers and say look we could do this or we could that with your company or let’s just talk.

Blake: Absolutely and if we’re just doing their bookkeeping we’re not really creating a lot of value. A lot of people can do that.

Heather: Yes and compliance, we have that legal obligation for compliance but the numbers and doing something with the numbers and analysing the numbers and taking it further that’s where using a good accountant is going to take you ahead of your competition.

Blake: Absolutely and that’s why we do this. That’s when I feel good, when I’ve actually advised a client, given them good advice and then they go on and grow their business and they come back and they say hey I was able to double my business because of you. Thank you.

Heather: Thank you. Damn I wish I got you to sign that you were going to give me a percentage of that business.

Blake: It’s always the accountants for the start-ups that end up being very successful and people say well why didn’t you take equity instead of fees for your services and I think the answer is if you did that then you would never make any money really.

Heather:  Yes I know. Absolutely, absolutely.

Blake: But it’s tempting right.

Heather: Yes it is, absolutely. In terms of Spotlight using the multi-tool that benchmarks up to 500 organisations, are you using that one and how are you finding that.

Blake: So I’m not personally using multi but you know the regular Spotlight Reporting will consolidate up to, I put 25 here but it might actually be 50, I’ve never dealt with a client that has more than that many entities. But I’m actually not sure what our virtual CFOs if they’ve used the multi yet in each PC, I’d have to ask.

LivePlan for business planning

Heather: Yes definitely talk about it next time. So the other solution you mentioned there was LivePlan. (Timestamp 1:26:08).

Blake: LivePlan is another US app and it’s pretty unique in that the focus is on the business plan first and so it’s a great tool for creating a business idea and pitch deck and then fleshing that out into a full on multi page document with financial projections and what not. So once you do that you can connect it to Xero and you can monitor your business and see if you are actually meeting your projections.

Heather: Absolutely and it sounded like that’s suited to start-ups but perhaps it’s also suited to someone who’s set up a new department and wants to test how that new department will work.

Blake: I think it would really work well for anyone starting a business. I think one of the top reasons that businesses fail is simply lack of planning and so even if you’re just doing something relatively simple like opening up a franchise you should be doing a business plan and it’s a lot easier to do it with a tool.

Heather: Absolutely absolutely.

Kounta & Vend for retail POS

So finally last but not least we have the retail point of sales and you mention two of them Kounta and Vend. (Timestamp 1:27:32).

Blake: Yes so Vend I got certified on a while back and I’ve co-presented on behalf of Xero with Vend at some events demonstrating the integration. It’s great.

Heather: So it integrates with Xero and Deputy?

Blake: Yes so there was actually, I did a presentation with Deputy and Vend and Xero showing how all three work together.

Heather: Wow that’s powerful.

Blake: So it’s really slick so for instance Deputy will sync with Vend to show you in Deputy what your busiest times of day are according to Vend in terms of sales so you can appropriately schedule and then Vend will sync with Xero for all the sales data and Deputy will sync with Xero for the payroll and it all just works well together so that’s a trio that I recommend checking out if you’re dealing with retail stores.

Heather: That’s sensational. Thank you so much Blake for your time today. We really appreciate it. I’m sure people have learned, like I’ve learned a lot just talking with you about this and I’m sure our listeners will have learned so much. Can you share with our listeners how they can get in touch with you.

Blake: Sure thing. You can go to my website www.blakeoliver.com and that’s where you’ll find the recommended apps for accountants and bookkeepers we’ve been talking about. That page is under the resources menu. You can get in touch with me via the contact form there and I’m actually also doing a weekly webcast now and it is called the App Show and it’s with Will Lopez of AdvisorFi. We started doing that on Thursday mornings at 8.30am Pacific Time and we’re doing that on a new platform called Blab which is like Periscope or Meerkat but it allows for multiple participants so basically you just fire up your webcam and you’re broadcasting live to the world.

Heather: So people can watch it while they’re working on one of their screens.

Blake: Yes just pull it up and watch it while you’re working and if you’re really brave you can actually join. You can click on one of the open seats and you can join us live and ask questions of your guest.

Heather: So can people see your face if you do that.

Blake: Yes it’s on video and it’s like four different squares on the screen and we just did our third one today, this morning with Karbon-

Heather: Oh fantastic, yes you did post that in the Xero Mastermind Group. I get confused with all the time zones.

Blake: And it was just really great because we had our guests and we had Stuart there and we had our first guest actually join in and ask questions and I think this is, each week we’re going to feature a different application so it’s sort of actually was inspired by the good response of this recommended apps post. People want to learn about apps but it’s really hard to make time to do it so our hope is that you can fire this thing up while you’re at work, watch it and learn something.

Heather: And do the sessions record so someone can go-

Blake: -they do.

Heather: Oh excellent.

Blake: So for instance that Blab link that I posted in the Xero Mastermind group, you can click on that and it will take you right to the recording. It automatically records everything and posts it right in there.

Heather: Fantastic. Wow so much there and it’s amazing if you put something out there, if you write something, you put it out there, what comes back to you in the world and look at that you’ve started, you’re a Blabber I guess, if I may use-

Blake: -I’m a blabber and a slacker-

Heather: -you’re a blabber and on that point of writing we did talk about it earlier, I highly encourage anyone out there who’s listening to write and everything I publish as well goes through an editor, just like you’re going through a proof-reader so do have a go at writing if you want to. So thank you very much Blake. I’m sure people will be getting in touch with you and I will be sure to try and schedule Blab into my calendar so I can be an audience member next time.

Blake: And the challenge for you is going to be that I think it’s like 3 in the morning, your time-

Heather: -I’m always up at 3 in the morning-

Blake: -so if you’re online join us we’re also going to do some in the evenings our time, which will be in the day for you all.

Heather: Fantastic. I’ll be in my pyjamas but I’ll be up.

Blake: Sounds good.

Heather: Awesome.  Thank you so much Blake.

Blake: It was a pleasure.

End of Transcript

This episode was kindly sponsored by Spotlight Reporting.

Spotlight Reporting has a suite of four solutions:

  1. Spotlight Reporting creates useful, attractive performance reports quickly and efficiently. Ideal for organisations that need deeper insight and analysis
  2. Spotlight Dashboard is the one page reporting dashboard that focuses on what really matters. With drag-and-drop functionality, Dashboard is super-fast and easy to use.
  3. Spotlight Forecasting is an ‘all-in-one’ forecasting tool which brings together budget creation, full 3-way forecasting and scenario building capability. Forecast the future with confidence.
  4. Spotlight Multi is an online tool designed specifically for multi-entity organisations. Better, faster and more useful reporting should also encourage improved decision making and governance.

Please support our sponsor and visit www.spotlightreporting.com to find out more about Spotlight Reporting or if you are a Xero advisor join the www.facebook.com/groups/XeroMasterMind group and continue the discussion.

Blake Oliver is the Director of Technology & Marketing at HPC Accounting & Tax  www.hpccpa.com.

“I love technology, accounting, and productivity. I guess that’s why nothing makes me happier than helping a client realize a big boost in efficiency after setting up a new cloud accounting integration.” ~ Blake Oliver www.blakeoliver.com

Heather Smith can help your Xerocentric business deliver powerful, engaging and educational content, through guest blog posts, educational instructions, video creation, podcasts, and social media blasts. She hosts the #1 independent XeroCentric podcast Cloud Stories, authored Xero for Dummies, produces easy to follow videos on her YouTube channel and hosts the Xero Mastermind Meetup and Xero Mastermind Facebook group. As a chartered certified accountant, certified practising accountant and Xero certified advisor she has the knowledge, expertise and credibility to talk about your business solution to the Xero community.