Jetpack Workflow was really built to solve the problem of client work falling through the cracks. When I was talking with people, firm owners, they said, well, we have hundreds or thousands of recurring deadlines and due dates, payroll schedules and bookkeeping schedules, tax schedules, CFO schedules, and even with a small firm, that becomes overwhelming very quickly. So, we provide a very simple solution to help you get organised, to track all of your recurring deadlines of due dates, so nothing falls through the cracks. At a very practical level, it looks and feels like a CRM and project management tool that was smashed together, for lack of a better word.

Today I am speaking with David Cristello CEO and Founder from JetPack Workflow

In this episode, we talk about . . .

  • Why he created a company to build a Workflow and CRM solution for practices
  • What some of his favourite features and reports are within JetPack Workflow
  • The importance of asking better questions, to uncover real issues.
  • The longest milkshake analogy ever told on an accounting podcast!
  • Also, we heard about an atomic habit that David has adopted, and from that discussion I’ve followed James Clear on twitter
  • And David expressed his interest in understanding if practices really examined their own capacity. If you have thoughts on that – send him a message on Twitter at @DaveCristello

Thank you so much for joining me here today on Cloud Stories. I’m going to start with an icebreaker,

If you could offer your 13 year old self advice, what would it be?

Oh my goodness. I don’t know if I have a good answer for this. I’ve never been asked this question. It’s so funny and I hear it all the time. What advice would I give my 13-year-old self? I’m trying to think back when I was 13. The thing that comes to mind is just, enjoy it. I don’t know. Just enjoy it. That’s pretty much it. It’s very simple. Put money in Apple stock or anything like that. It can be like back to the future advice, put all your money in whatever, but honestly just enjoy it. 13 is such a fun age and is a really good time when you’re really figuring out your first like set of real hobbies. That’s an age when you’re like, if you’re into something then I think you really start becoming into it. It’s just an awesome time to discover some of your passions. So just enjoy it.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And you start having a little bit of money to spend on it and you start gathering with your friends, spending money and activities on that. That’s excellent. Thank you for that, David.

Can you share with our listeners a little bit about your background?

Yeah. I have a background in psychology. I have a degree as a psychology major. I started as a social worker out of school working with kids diagnosed on the autism spectrum. This is maybe an atypical backstory I suppose for cloud technology. I got into freelance marketing. I ran a really small firm, if you could even call it that, and eventually stumbled upon this belief that you can build really great companies and products by solving painful problems, which prompted me to go out and talk with a lot of accounting firm owners about what was keeping them up at night and what were some of the most painful, tedious time consuming things that they were doing on a weekly basis. That’s how I got started on the path I’m at now was with Jetpack Workflow.

Heather Smith: Wow. Yes, that was a very interesting origin story there. Can I jump back and ask you, what did you think of the movie, The Accountant?

David Cristello: Sadly, I have not seen it, but I do love the idea …

Heather Smith: Oh no.

David Cristello: I know, it hurts me to say that out loud because I mean, it’s Ben Affleck. One of my all time favourite movies is Goodwill Hunting. I know Ben Affleck is a very controversial actor. Some people love him, some people hate him, some people don’t even watch, starting to know who he is depending on the generation. I love him in Goodwill Hunting. I love that movie, and I didn’t watch The Accountant, but I love the idea that this accountant has this secret, that he’s an assassin. He’s a warrior. I think it’s really cool, but unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie. I have a young son at home, which means when I have times to watch movies, it’s with my wife and action thrillers are not the top of her list. So I’ve seen probably more comedies and TV show comedies in the past two years than I have action thrillers, but it’s on my list. I need to watch it.

Heather Smith: Fair enough. Then the reason I asked was because it does suggest that he is on the spectrum and you have that background in psychology and dealing with people with autism. So, I was interested in sort of your perspective of the accounting industry in that, but we will jump ahead.

David Cristello: My work during that time was mainly to stop children from fighting. There’s a spectrum, and for some reason in that role, you get assigned a family and a child, and I seem to, for whatever reason, be assigned children who were just getting in a lot of fights. Obviously, if you’re on the spectrum, you have attention challenges, there’s environmental challenges, and depending on their family life, but I was like a weird body guard and I had to stop kids from fighting for about a year and a half of my life. So it was an interesting experience.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. I’m sure, I think with everything, we learn something from it and we take something from it. Hopefully, you get to watch that movie.

David Cristello: Yeah, it’s on the list.

Heather Smith: Because I found it really helped me understand the accounting industry. Some people may agree or not disagree, but so once you watch it, let me know your perspective on it.

David Cristello: Oh, sorry. When you post this episode, if somebody leaves it, tag me in the comments when you post this up on Facebook or whatever, and guilt trip me into watching it. So if anybody has seen, and I’m curious, put a comment below.

What’s the startup in small business environment culture like in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?

Yeah. This is obviously where I get my funny accent. I think Pittsburgh’s really interesting. It’s a classic rust belt city, blue collar, steel mill, coal industry. That’s the roots of Pittsburgh. So Andrew Carnegie, the steel that was used in budding urban cities of the 20th century came from Pittsburgh, it was transferred from Pittsburgh. What’s been interesting over the last 10, 15 years is we have a very strong university system. So Carnegie Mellon, one of the top one or two, depending on the list of computer science programmes in the States is in our backyard. We used to have this problem, we still do a little bit, is people would leave universities like Carnegie Mellon and go straight to New York City or San Francisco.

David Cristello: Over the last 10 years, Google has put a thousand people in Pittsburgh and Uber has purchased essentially the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon and turned that into their autonomous driving division for R&D. Ford has invested or committed $1 billion into an R&D division of their company called for autonomous driving. Duolingo, which some people might know about. They recently got a billion plus valuation. It’s the world’s, I think, largest learning language app, so they’re based about three blocks from us. And so, it’s really taken on this kind of a startup ecosystem technology ecosystem. It’s still relatively small against other cities like Chicago, even that are a little bit smaller than San Francisco, but it’s growing a lot. We have a great university system, we have great pipeline. All great things I think for the city of Pittsburgh.

Heather Smith: Yeah. Wow. That was way more than I was expecting. That’s bigger than a lot of small countries, what you have happening there.

David Cristello: It’s been fascinating. Just thinking about it, so Carnegie Mellon is one of the top institutes for AI. Facebook has actually opened up an office in Pittsburgh for their AI R&D lab. So we’re seeing a lot more companies, big tech come into Pittsburgh, which is obviously challenging because that drives up salaries, but it’s also beneficial because it keeps talent in this ecosystem, which is I think really great for startup companies.

Heather Smith: Excellent. That just sounds far more amazing than I was anticipating, so very fortunate, I guess and thriving for.

Why did you start your business?

At a deep level, I want it to … It’s probably very similar to a lot of people listening. I wanted that creative freedom to build something. I wanted to control my own destiny. I got excited by the prospect of doing that through building a product. Now, this is going to sound very mathematical and scientific, and to some degree it was, but when somebody explained to me the SaaS model and it’s recurring and you don’t have to chase down invoices, which is what I was doing prior. It can go global. It’s national very quickly. Distribution is straight forward because I came from a digital marketing space. Cost of building has lowered dramatically, but the biggest variable is, can you build something people actually want?

Is it a painful problem you’re solving? That’s the biggest risk in building any kind of product. Any kind of technology product certainly is you just build something nobody cares about and it’s not really valuable enough to pay for. That’s where I was like, okay, so it’s not so much about me dreaming up this magical, clever solution, it’s more about me becoming really curious and fascinated by solving painful problems for accounting firm owners, and that’s what I became really passionate about is learning about painful problems. I almost became like a quasi business therapist, because business owners, no one asks about their painful problems. Spouses are sick of hearing about them. Friends don’t want to hear about them. They want to talk about whatever, the movies or sports.

Your team, you probably shouldn’t go to them to talk about it. So, there’s not a lot of outlets for many firm owners, business owners to say things like, yeah, I’ve been tinkering with this spreadsheet for seven years and it’s taking hours a week and it’s cluttering my inbox and I no longer feel like I can hire team members because the spreadsheet keeps breaking or whatever. Nobody’s asking them about these things, but they’re really painful and they’re really damaging to the business, which by extension, is damaging to their personal life.

When you start going down that journey, it’s very fulfilling to be like, I want to go out and solve that painful problem. That’s kind of the personal backdrop. When I realised, I didn’t have to dream up something clever. I don’t have a million ideas that I could go out and build. I know I can at least ask people questions.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely.

David Cristello: 15 years of schooling, I could ask somebody a question. I learned that much.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely.

Can you describe what your solution Jetpack Workflow does for our listeners?

Yeah, absolutely. It was really built to solve the problem of client work falling through the cracks. When I was talking with people, firm owners, they said, well, we have hundreds or thousands of recurring deadlines and due dates, payroll schedules and bookkeeping schedules, tax schedules, CFO schedules, and even with a small firm, that becomes overwhelming very quickly. So, we provide a very simple solution to help you get organised, to track all of your recurring deadlines of due dates, so nothing falls through the cracks.

At a very practical level, it looks and feels like a CRM and project management tool that was smashed together, for lack of a better word. The reason it feels that way is because I remember early on in our interview process, I was talking with firm owners and they told me, “Things falling through the cracks is a big stressor for me and it keeps me up at night fearing I’m going to miss a deadline.” And I said, “Hey, good news. There’s Asana. Asana is all about tasks and deadlines. Just use Asana or Basecamp or there’s like 900 project management tools. I sat down with him, he’s like, “Okay, great. Where do I put my clients?”

I’m like, “You can’t really put clients in these tools.” He’s like, “My whole business is clients. What do you mean I can’t put clients in there?” And I’m like, “Well, we can try to hack something together.” I just remember our first customer saying to me, “I want to see all my bookkeeping clients something due this Friday that hasn’t been started organised by my team. I want to get that answer really, really quickly and I don’t want to tinker with all these other complex things and that’s what I want out of Jetpack.” That’s really, the first thing that we built, it was aimed to get those answers for firm owners, things like that.

Heather Smith: It is interesting that you made the comment that it’s like a CRM mashed up with a project management tool, which seems like a really sensible thing to do.

David Cristello: Well, the interesting thing is CRM is built for salespeople. CRM has always classically evolved into how do we help sales people close more deals and follow up? Project management, it was always thinking about, how do we get a project done? But I just thought, or what I heard from the market was that there wasn’t enough thought or tools, software for recurring client management. What happens after the client comes on board, and how do you manage that ongoing engagement that isn’t one off? These are majority recurring. It didn’t seem like anybody had really thought enough about that problem, or if they had, they hadn’t … Because technology needs to be updated significantly, call it minimum every five to 15 years. Some of the companies that had solved it in 2005 hadn’t really solved it in 2015 because the technology landscape had changed. That’s what I saw.

So building a client and workflow management tool would suggest you’re a supremely organised and process driven person. Is this true?

David Cristello: I’ve become more organised, that’s for sure. Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve met people that are even more organised than I am. I’ve certainly met many that are less organised. I have my system and I have made a part of my system as a reflection on that system to improve it. My personal productivity habits is actually pretty funny. I have a little notebook here. We use software to track, but I always find that … I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and the data here in my notebook lives in a cloud tool because I need my team to see what I’m doing. I have my list. I go through my list. I’m very organised. I protect my time as much as I can, and every month I take a half a day to review my system of the prior month and see what needs to be updated. So, relatively organised depending on who you ask.

Where did the name Jetpack Workflow come from?

Here’s a funny origin story. When we were doing these early interviews, I drew up this concept of the software and I was ready to show it to people and I was about to show it to someone and I realised that it didn’t have a name. It was just called like my software idea. I was like, I have to say it’s something. Early on it was all about checklists. You need to organise and manage your checklist. So the first actual name of the product was called Checklist Pro and our code base, it’s called checklist pro, because the first lines committed words against checklist pro. I didn’t feel good about that name and so Jetpack Workflow comes from, we were trying to understand what the tool would do for a firm. In theory, you get your seeing standardised, you automate the recurrences, we give you a simple way to track it.

David Cristello: That should allow your firm to breathe a little bit more. So it should grow productivity, profitability, work-life balance. Something should improve or increase. So we were like, what are things that grow or elevate? So, it’s like, okay, well there’s, there’s rockets, there’s planes, there’s trees, there’s kites, there’s jetpacks. We were just thinking of things that … there’s elevators, right? And for some reason, we were like Jetpack. Well, Jetpack’s yeah, that’s neat. Okay, Jetpack, and this is workflow, so What about Jetpack Workflow? Then we did the thing most people do is, was the domain available? Oh, okay, cool. It just came from trying to do a mind map or a visualisation. But I’ll tell you what, I had a really hard time naming it.

David Cristello: It took me months to name it. I had to talk with different people, different friends that were trying to help me name it. That was a hard one.

Heather Smith: Once you had it named, was it satisfying?

David Cristello: It was satisfying in a way that, you know when you need to sneeze and you can’t sneeze and you finally sneeze, it was satisfying in that sense. I was like, thank goodness that’s done, because I can go back to talking with customers and thinking about product and getting marketing together. To me, it was just like … Look, the name’s very important, right? But at that time I was like, it just feels like a sneeze and it just needs to happen so I can get back to building the business.

Can you expand on the feature set of Jetpack Workflow for our listeners, maybe your favourite feature or a feature that they’d not be aware of? Just anything else in terms of the features for our listeners who don’t know your solution?

David Cristello: Yeah. Boy, look at any software, there’s like hundreds of features. I would say the ones that come to mind, there’s a few. We have this little feature where you can forward an email into the system, so we have a domain. If you’re on the go, and you can actually create work on the go and you just email your … the subject line becomes the job name and then the entire content gets sucked into the job as well, including attachments. So if a client sends you something, you forward it to the domain, and the domain is It’s not like 921252, and it’s unique. It’s just the same domain and URL. So as soon as you remember new job, you could ship it over to there, it creates it. If a client sends you something and you’re like, I want to capture this, you could forward it through that domain into your Jetpack account.

David Cristello: That one is a really great one. The other one that comes to mind, it feels very simple, but it’s so impactful is just adding labels into jobs. It’s just a way to colour code. It could be used for priorities. It could be used for client statuses. It can be used to draw urgency or attention levels to different team members. That information gets pulled into our dashboard, so you can see how many jobs have certain labels. Recently, we released a new view called My Work, which does exactly what it sounds like. It gives you a view to view your work. It’s one place. If you ever are unsure of what to do, there’s a tab called My Work, and you can see the labels attached with those work items. I think those are two that come to mind. I can give you a 10 more, but …

Heather Smith: No, that’s good. I think it’s just for people, to give some understanding of some features they should look out for.

What other accounting apps or general ledgers do you sync, connect or partner with that our listeners should know about?

David Cristello: Yeah, great question. We have a connection with QuickBooks online. We have a connection with Google and Outlook. When is this interview going to be released? Because we’re working on an integration now as well.

Heather Smith: Consider it evergreen so you can talk about what’s coming up.

David Cristello: Sure. Okay. Man, I hope the engineering team doesn’t come punch me in the arm. Zapier is the one we’re embarking on now. If you’re going back and assuming that this is, call it May 1st, 2020 and beyond, hey, you have Zapier. If you’re listening to this before then, you’re probably not going to see it. But just know that’s the integration we’re working on, which then connects us with I think 1600 other apps. Of course, you need to be familiar with Zapier to set up these recipes or these Zaps. For the listeners, Zapier, it’s like the piping for lot of your tools. So, if you use a scheduling software like Acuity or Calendly or ScheduleOnce, and you want that information to be sent into a tool like Jetpack Workflow, well instead of us needing to go and create three integrations with three scheduling tools, when we integrate with Zapier, it allows us to connect with three of those tools, plus 1600 other ones, like Practice Ignition is in Zapier.

David Cristello: I am assuming that’s going to be a popular integration from onboarding to getting that into Jetpack. That’s an example, one we look forward to finally connecting with because we know the folks at Practice Ignition, what they’re doing and excited we get to create a little bit of a connection with them in that way.

Heather Smith: Yeah. No, people will be very excited about that. I’m sure they’ll be. We’ll hear that across the internet when that happens.

What sort of business does Jetpack Workflow suit?

David Cristello: Yeah. Typically, a small to medium size accounting, bookkeeping, payroll or tax practice. That’s been bread and butter. We certainly have a good customer base in those where the entire business is one person and we support those practices that have small teams. So three, four or five. I would say anywhere between just starting out to 20 or so employees. We have some that are much, much bigger than 20, but generally speaking, one to 20 is our range that we work with. It’s in the accounting, payroll, bookkeeping and tax industry has been our main one since day one.

Do businesses outside of those industries such as architectural firms use your solution?

We do have a few that are outside of accounting that have started to use Jetpack Workflow and they come in through organic means. Maybe they find reviews on us or maybe an account that we’ve had … some of the firms we work with recommended for their clients. We’ve started to see some people sign up in other industries. We’re going to monitor that and see how that works out. If they can get value from the tool, great. That’s our hope. We wouldn’t ever want to create a world in which we’re building something for architects, but accountants hate it and then it hates it. Things like that. We see some pretty positive signals that other professional firms have similar problems, the ones I just mentioned. It’s early and we’re tracking them and we’re going to see if they get any value out of the tool.

How long does it take an average practice to set up and deploy Jetpack Workflow in their practice?

Good question. This is a really tough question because it’s so based on if you come into Jetpack Workflow and you’re not organised, so if you don’t already have documented checklists or if things aren’t standardised, if you and your two partners are doing everything differently and you’re like, “Oh, this is the moment that we both want to set up a tool and get everybody on the same page, that takes a little bit longer because sometimes we have to work with you on, what is your checklist and things like that. We’ve had firms that come in. They have checklists and spreadsheets and they just need a simple tool to get everybody on the same page.

I remember one from owner, Blake, in Ohio at LWS Tax & Accounting, he got it set up in an afternoon. Lauretta Finis in Australia. I think she got it set up in about an afternoon, I think if you have your organisation together, but typically speaking, a couple of days to a week. What causes the timeframe there, that doesn’t mean it’s 40 hours of setup, but it’s the time to get your client list together if it’s in different places, it’s to get your templates together. But again, if you’re a motivated firm owner we’ve seen it happen in an afternoon. It’s just dependent on where your firm’s at and how excited you are to get set up.

Heather Smith: Yeah. It’s so important for a sustainable firm to have clear processes in place, and using a solution like yours either helps or pushes or forces the situation of having those processes in place.

David Cristello: Yeah, and I would say, if anybody’s listening and they check out or purchase Jetpack Workflow, we have a setup team that’s dedicated to trying to keep the firm owner accountable or their champion accountable. Here’s a big thing. A lot of firm owners ironically, are not organised or they’re not great at adopting new tools, which is totally okay. But all that means is you have to delegate the champion in your firm to then drive the implementation of the tool and they can report back to you on the setup. Our team is there to include it in the package, just like, we’ll be on that first call with you as soon as you need it right away. We’re going to try it … Their goal is to help people get set up and it’s included in the service.

David Cristello: We try to build a lot of … when we think a lot about accountability, coaching and mindset, the right way to set it up. It’s a challenge certainly if it’s maybe the first software package you’ve adopted since zero or QBO or something like that.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. You mentioned that you set up Lauretta Finis, the lovely Lauretta in Australia, so you work with clients globally.

David Cristello: Correct. Lauretta came on very early and she’s been great. I got to meet her at a conference a couple of years ago. She’s also been graded … she’s done presentations on Jetpack Workflow. The Australian market and Australians in general are, to me it was surprising. Maybe to you, it’s not surprising at all, are significantly more sophisticated in technology than the States. They’re typically years ahead. Anywhere from 18 months to 36 months ahead of the United States market in how they think about technology. Lauretta came on very early, totally got the concept, and has been just a great champion for us since.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Look, and I do hear that all the time and I do spend some time in America. I think one of the reasons why, and I consider New Zealand to be ahead of Australia, is we have a lot simpler infrastructure around our government and our banking system than you do in America in terms of we have four main banks and you have four billion main banks. Things like that add complexity. Plus, you’ve got massive payroll rules state by state, by state, so that adds some complexity to it. David …

David Cristello: And there’s a tonne of us, so you can actually be a really old school practice, not adopting anything and still be quite successful from a revenue standpoint because there are so many businesses and individuals that can be clients. You can run a viable practice and not change anything in your infrastructure for a really long time because there’s just so many people here. It’s great because it’s a great market, but that also hinders our maybe technology adoption rate and just creates … the laggards are, I think a bigger percentage.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Totally agree there. So David, your Twitter profile says, patiently in a hurry, always in search of better questions and dealing pretty well with paradoxes. So as the interviewer here, I was pretty stressed that, would I be bringing you the better questions? Thankfully, you said the last question was a good question.

What do you mean by better questions?

You know what’s so funny? Is I signed up for Twitter 10 years ago and I haven’t used it until about a month ago. For me being in tech, I’ve always looked at Twitter and I was like, I just don’t get it. It’s cool, but I just don’t get it. Then a month ago I’m like, I get it, I finally get it. So it’s funny you bring it up, and I’ve actually started to monitor and get back into Twitter. I did a very awesome channel now that I use it. Better questions, so I’m trying to think of a good example. I think yeah, man, I’m trying to think of a good example. I just think we’re so often in a hurry. I think psychologically, people have a hard time dealing with uncertainty and you strive so much for certainty that you want an answer right away, even if you’ve asked the wrong question. You know what I mean? I’m trying to think of a good one. I mean, it happens a lot at Jetpack.

Heather Smith: I’ll give you an example from the forums. Someone will just put up on a group, I’m using Excel, how can I improve my workflow management? But they don’t give all the details of the question, all the parameters of the question. Like how many staff, where they’re based, what they’re looking to do, what services they’re trying to offer, something like that.

David Cristello: What have you tried in the past?

Heather Smith: Yeah. It’s just like, just tell me the answer, but I don’t know what my question is.

David Cristello: Right. Yeah, 100%. Another way this manifests in the accounting community that we see a lot, which is like, I’m really struggling, I need to get more clients. How do I get more clients? Can you help me? Obviously, workflow tool, our podcast, it’s interviews about marketing and sales. So we might point them to those interviews, but the kind of thing is like, well tell me a little bit more about your firm. Why is marketing a priority for you or why is getting more clients a priority for you? Well, we’re really struggling to maintain good profits, good cashflow. If you dig into it, it’s like, well, what’s … tell me a little bit more about your infrastructure, and you find out that they’ve hired too many people too quickly or they have tool redundancy or they’re not charging enough for your services.

And you’re like, well, why aren’t you charging enough for your services? Well, my client won’t pay me anymore. They’re just like, “You don’t understand. My clients are different. They won’t pay me.” We hear this all the time. My clients are different. Okay, what do you offer them? Well, we offer them compliance work. Okay. That’s probably part of the root of the issue is you’re not positioning yourself. Going out to the market and just shouting, “Hire me, hire me, hire me,” is not the main problem. The main problem might be the way you either position your services or the services you do offer. That’s off the top of my head. That’s a simplistic way of like, instead of giving an answer …

Toyota has this five why’s that’s very famous obviously in their manufacturing process. So something’s broken, why? And then you ask why four more times. Sometimes a better question is just being like, why? Why is that? Why is that? Why is that? A big question, so a question that we’re really big fans of, and we’ll probably will forever be fans of, but we’ve been asking it a lot at our company is what’s the number one constraint to our growth? What’s our biggest constraint? You know? It goes, okay, well, is it leads? Is it getting customers, is it setting up customers? Is retaining customers? Is it value delivery features for those customers? What are we seeing in the data? Okay. It’s getting leads. Okay, what about getting leads is blocking? Is it getting website visitors? Is it getting them opt into something or once they opt in, is it starting a trial?

We just keep digging into what’s the constraint? What’s the constraint? That’s a really great question. We love that question. Anyways, that’s what I mean by better questions.

Heather Smith: Excellent. Thank you very much for that, David. A workflow solution by its very nature contains a lot of data.

Where is your data stored? How is it accessible? How do you access it while you’re using it? Are you able to access it essentially while you’re using it? How do you access it at the end of subscription? What are the reporting and analytical options available to that data? So long question, but just if you could just briefly touch on some of those things for our listeners who are data obsessed.

Yeah. From a technology stack perspective, it’s in Heroku which is owned by Salesforce and AWS, which obviously Amazon. That’s our processing on that end. The data that you put into the system, you should see it right away if you ever need the data out of the system. So we are GDPR compliant, which entails a lot of things about data accessibility and data restriction. I know GDPR is not the Australian market, but it does … the reason I brought it up is because there is a lot of things about how you house data and the access you give to it. If somebody leaves our programme and they want all their data export, hey, no problem. We’re really not about holding people hostage with their data.

The views you can get to it … my favourite view is called the jobs tab. And this is where you can slice and dice the data you put into the system any which way. You have a search, which you can run a search by any client name or any service. You have filters, which filters include labels, client name, staff, status. Gosh, I feel there’s like three more I can’t recall. And you can multi sort the table that you’re looking at. The jobs tab shows you all the jobs that are going on in your firm. I really like that because you can manipulate that rapport to really view anything. It’s like a supercharged spreadsheet and you can save the views and access them anytime.

Heather Smith: And as accountants, we love spreadsheets.

David Cristello: Yeah. It’s like a comfort …

Heather Smith: Build something that looks like a spreadsheet.

David Cristello: This view is like a comfort blanket because of that. It’s like a prettier, more flexible, more accessible, more collaborative spreadsheet. We have a view that we released in December called the progress report. So if you want to see how many jobs are due this month, how many are done, how many are getting done on time, how many are not getting done on time, that’s your snapshot on the progress of the firm. We have the dashboard which shows you … it’s like the 62nd overview of if your firm’s on fire. So it gives you a little capacity card on how things are being booked out for your team. It gives you an idea of firm-wide, how many jobs have you booked and how much time do they represent, and as people are checking off tasks, budgeted time decreases.

David Cristello: Then for those that, look, just give me a spreadsheet and I’ll do whatever I want with it, we have the metrics download, which is literally, the job name, the client it’s associated with, who’s been assigned to it, when was the date in, when was the projected date out, when was the date completed, what was the billing model for it? You could export everything out of there and manipulate it any which way you want. Those are some of the views you can find in the tool.

Heather Smith: Excellent. Yeah, no, that sounded really good, and the capacity reports are really important for firms to be aware of.

David Cristello: Yeah. Have you seen a lot of firms use capacity reports? Because sometimes like it feels so important to me. In some firms, definitely we talk to them about it, but I am pretty consistently surprised it’s not a bigger conversation, but I’m in my little bubble here in the States and maybe it’s really Australians are ahead.

Heather Smith: You need to come down to Australia.

David Cristello: I know. I agree.

Heather Smith: Well, I’m probably speaking with people at sort of different levels, but I am speaking, like one of the ladies I’ve been working with for a while now you know, just on a friendship basis, she’s just gone on at full capacity and just put up a sign on a website saying I’m no longer taking clients. Click here to go on my wait list, which I just think is wonderful. Her front page says you’re on a wait list guys. So they are recognising capacity. I speak to a lot of people who are sort of in the … looking at the most sustainable and comfortable way to build a business and capacity. Capacity comes into whether I have the Headspace to take on a solution or to take on staff or to not take on staff. It is important constant conversation to be had.

David Cristello: If capacity’s a topic, it’s one of two areas I’m really investing and investigating a lot about best practices. If somebody’s listening and they’re geeking out on capacity as much as I am, shoot me an email. It’s my first name at

Heather Smith: Fantastic. We should get them to send you a message on Twitter as well, now that you’re active on Twitter.

David Cristello: Yeah, it’s so funny. Now I love it. Facebook for me, just wasn’t giving me a lot of the depth that I wanted. I love it for industry groups. So I’m in a tonne of accounting groups on Facebook, which is amazing. I really have been enjoying Twitter just for following different authors and thought leaders and journalists. Yeah, now I’m active on Twitter. If you at mention me, I probably won’t view it for a couple of weeks because I’ve just not in that mindset yet. I’m just like the passive consumer right now, which is so not social media, but yeah, at mention me at Twitter.

Heather Smith: A lot of people only consume it virtually. I get a lot of people come up to me and go, and I’ve never connected with them whatsoever, but they’ll come and talk to me about things that I posted years ago or something like that. That’s good. I really liked the fact that you can have deep conversations about very specific and niche topics like capacity, like let’s have a month talking about capacity or something like that.

David Cristello: Yeah, absolutely. It’s so funny, you made me really nervous because I’m like, what is my Twitter handle? This is crazy. I grew up with Twitter and it’s just embarrassing. Okay, so it’s @Dave Cristello, even though nobody calls me Dave, I guess that’s my Twitter handle. I don’t know why I put it that way.

Heather Smith: That’s okay. Again, it said that, what do you have capacity for, what social media channel do you have capacity for at the time and what’s serving you best?

David Cristello: Well, I’m a big fan of … Oh, sorry, go ahead.

…here’s the start of the milkshake story

I love this concept of jobs to be done, so what are you hiring a tool to do? There’s this great article written by Clayton Christensen who unfortunately passed away recently about the same product you can hire to do different things. His classic example was a milkshake, and what are you hiring a milkshake to do? And they did this study on a milkshake stand that was near a train station. Him and his team of researchers from Harvard were monitoring people, were trying to understand, what is somebody hiring a milkshake to do? And they noticed that in the morning the commuters would come in, and they get like a healthy milkshake, and they would use it as, almost like it’s like a companion during their commute before they jumped on the train to get to work.

What was important about that milkshake was that it was, for lack of a better word, interesting to consume. So they liked having pieces of fruit to chew on like cherries and bananas, whatever, because it just gave them something like a stimulation either driving or commuting in. It was also, it was something that they drank because it was more filling than maybe a simple banana. If they ate a banana, they got hungry again mid-morning, but if they had a smoothie it would last them to lunch. The commuter’s job for that smoothie was like companionship on their ride. Something interesting to consume while you’re going into work and to keep them full until lunch. Now, the group that came in the afternoon was the parent and a child. The child wants a milkshake and the parent wants to maybe reward the child for being good that day.

They do not want something that fills up that child because it’s going to spoil dinner. They do not want pieces of fruit that gets stuck in their teeth that they’re going to have to manually rip out. They want a watery, quick to consume, not super messy, even though it’s watery, milkshake experience, something to reward their child without ruining their appetite for dinner and as little mess as possible. Totally different job, same … It’s a milkshake, it’s a milkshake, it’s a milkshake. The kid’s milkshake is different than maybe the adult or commuter milkshake. It’s a milkshake with two different jobs. The reason I bring that up is because I figured out the job for Twitter for me was a fluff free way to get cognitive stimulation that it wasn’t getting on Facebook. I love you catching up on families and cousins and kids and uncles and nieces and nephews and all that good stuff.

But sometimes I also just want to read a great article, and I wasn’t getting that on Facebook. So Twitter has become my new discovery platform for finding interesting news and tidbits and so that’s the job I’m getting from Twitter. I know that went a little woo-woo and academic on you.

David Cristello: Yeah, and look, there’s a great book called Competing Against Luck, that is entirely on this concept of jobs to be done. A more practical example, and I know this is … I’m going to end the rant here, but a university can have two different jobs to be done depending on who they’re trying to serve. So markets and segments really determine the job to be done. They realised that if you’re graduating, so here in the States, you graduate from high school and you typically go into college and the job you’re hiring that college to do typically is a coming of age experience. You’re coming into adulthood, relationships, and icebreakers and sporting events are all a critical foundational experience for that customer.

Well, that’s one, but if you’re 32 and you’re thinking about changing careers and you’re going back to school, you’re going back to school for a totally different reason. You don’t need a coming of age experience. Look, I don’t need sports events and rah, rah and woo-woo and icebreakers and dances. I need convenient on my own pace education. So, when a university started asking themselves this, let’s say we knew, okay, we have one customer that needs a coming of age experience. We have a totally different customer that’s trying to have a convenient way to change careers that impact their family. Because of that, a practical difference that university made is they started housing admissions people after hours because people that are switching careers, you can’t call them at 2:00 PM in the afternoon like you might a high school graduate.

So, they changed their support centre to cater towards that group, which they thought was really important. They could call them at night, they had customer support at night, which at that time was very rare for universities to have. By asking that question, you start to change the way you approach your services and your products. Anyways, and I’m sorry, that’s the end rant about milkshakes…

and so ends the longest milkshake conversation that has ever happened in the accounting podcasting world…

Heather Smith: Yeah. No, absolutely. My friend just went back to university, and it’s very frustrating. She went back at 40. All of the lectures and practically everyone in her class was 40 as well. All of the lectures ran at 3:00 PM, which is school pickup time. And she’s like, all of us have children to pick up, and they couldn’t get it through to the university that, that timing of that lecture wasn’t … All of the lectures were at that time. So, it is true, that two different spectrums of who are your customers?

David Cristello: And it’s great to ask that as an accounting firm owner and what is really, what are people hiring you to do? It’s not just deliver X service. There’s more to it. When you find it out, ironically, I felt like we just found this out about Jetpack Workflow in the last 60 days. When you find it out is really eye opening because then you could start to segment your services more thoughtfully, market more thoughtfully, sell more thoughtfully.

Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. David, you’ve recently read the book, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits by James Clear. For our listeners, I’ll just share a very brief synopsis of the book. People think when you want to change your life, you need to think big. But world renowned habits expert, James Clear, has discovered another way. He knows that real change comes from compound effects of hundreds of small decisions. Doing two pushups a day, waking up five minutes earlier a day, holding a single short phone call. He calls these atomic habits.

David, what’s been your atomic habit that you’ve adopted from reading the book?

Great question. By the way, James Clear is somebody I follow on Twitter. He’s like one of my go-to. He always posts something great on Twitter. He has a great quote recently. It was, your actions are your real priorities. Anyways, I’m a fan of James Clear. I thought the book was great, Atomic Habits. One thing I’m trying to do is consistently read three books a month. My reading habit really fell off the waggon last year and I really wasn’t happy with how many books … I feel like the quality of my life weirdly is dependent on how many books I’ve read because you just pick up better perspectives. It works for me and I like it.

I was like, I need three books a month, and I forget the exact breakdown, but it pretty much equal 20 pages a day, which is like 20 minutes, 15 minutes a day. So it’s like, look, if I can even break that up into 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes a night or just 20 minutes at night, then I’m going to read three books a month. I hit that goal in January. The other small habit was I’ve been struggling to, I know this is getting personal, but I’ve struggling to exercise since my son has been born. Obviously my whole schedule gets thrown into a tornado. I just realised I had been … one of the barriers for me was the gym I was going to was a 15 minute drive across town and I’d always go during traffic, during commute time. I’d always get there, not when I wanted to get there. I’d work out for like five and a half minutes, but it would be enough where I’m like sweaty, so I have to shower. I spent like almost no time exercising, and I’d get home I went …

So I changed my gyms, somewhere closer so I can get 20 minutes, three times a week. I’m on this like 20 minute kick I guess. Those are two really, I’m like, if I do these and they’re simple enough and they’re convenient enough in my world, I should make it happen. I got the Kindle app on my phone so I have no excuse to not flip through 10 minutes of reading material twice a day for 20 minutes once a day. Those are two things.

Heather Smith: I’ve only recently started using Kindle, and what I really like about it is there’s a section in it that you can go to highlighted phrases, which shows what everyone else has highlighted and so you can actually look at that and get a quick synopsis of the book and whether it’s going to be any good, and you can tweet from that point as well. So you can counteract your Twitter habits there. I’ll give you a tip. I occasionally go and work at this company, a fabulous company. One of the founders will pop his head through the door and he’ll go, “Give me a problem.” So, people will look around the office and they’ll go up and given one problem, and then he’ll go on a run.

Heather Smith: So he’ll take a problem on a run with him. He’s like, “I’ve got to go for a run, give me a problem, bam, and I’ll come back with the answer.” So I felt that was … he can, probably like you, you can leave the office when you need to leave the office.

David Cristello: Yeah, but the office doesn’t leave you. You could chew on a problem in a non-stressful way. Right?

Heather Smith: Absolutely. Thank you so much for spending time with us here today on Cloud Stories. Is there anything you’d like to share with our listeners before you go and how can they get in contact with you, David?

David Cristello: Yeah, so, we do have, so I mentioned we’re a tool that helps you standardise your processes, automates the recurrence, helps you track them. We have also 32 spreadsheet templates that if anybody just wants to view some standardised process in spreadsheet form, go to, just open up the little chat bubble in the bottom right and say, “Hey, I just got off a podcast with Heather and David. I love the 32 templates.” We’ll send them your way. It’s free. You have 32, and you can just get a look and feel of what a checklist might look like or the best practices of what it could look like and use that to build out your own.

David Cristello: The other resource I’ll mention is, so we have our blog and we do similar interviews like the one you just did. And so if you’re looking for more podcast material in your week, we have The Growing Your Firm Podcast, and you can find all the episodes at Those would be the two ways. Like I said earlier, my email is my first name at So if you have questions, if you enjoyed this episode, please let me know.

Heather Smith:

Thank you so much, David.

David Cristello:

Thank you.