The two terms that came out of the Great Recession here in the US were ‘Flat is Up’, and the ‘Accountant Recession’ or the ‘Recession-proof Accountant’. Flat is Up meant that accounting firms during that period were able to achieve flat growth year over year even though their workforce was eliminated by 40%. They were able to maintain revenues flat even though their workforce took a big hit, which earned them the title and they were able to help their clients endure during the Great Recession, and they earned the title the Recession Proof Accountant because of that.
Will Lopez Head of Accountant Community, Gusto
Will Lopez Head of Accountant Community at Gusto joined me to talk about…
- Why you should “Educate, Guide Now, and Earn Later” during the Global Crisis
- What is involved in the role of a community Manager, and how Will is empowering the community
- How Truly Lazy people can Make Multiple Pieces of Content?
- How Accountants and Bookkeepers can step into an advisor role mid-and-post Covid 19.
- The resources and support Gusto has provided to their community during these challenging times
- and of course, we talk about kayaking with giant alligators in the Everglades because it’s Will Lopez!
What’s the most dangerous thing Will Lopez has ever done?
Will Lopez: Yeah, I think the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done is went kayaking in the Everglades. So I was born and raised in Florida here in the United States, and I was born in Hollywood, Florida which is the tri-county area to Florida. So South Florida. It’s Palm Beach, Miami Broward-Dade, and the Everglades is known as just this big swamp where large gators live, and I personally decided to go kayaking in the Everglades and I think it was a huge mistake because these gators are not small. These are huge animals.
Will Lopez: And I remember just kayaking through the Everglades and then just seeing this head that was probably four feet long, you know, pop up next to me and I’m like, “yep, this is the last time I’m ever going to do something like this.” So that was enjoyable.
Heather Smith: Goodness. Do other people do it?
Will Lopez: People do it a lot. South Florida is known, obviously, as an Everglade centre and some of the wildlife as actually run rampant down in South Florida. Pythons were big in South Florida as pets and, obviously, true to form, pythons don’t stay pets. They stay monstrous animals and people were letting them go, and they were going into the Everglades and now you have massive gators and pythons living in the Everglades.
Will Lopez: But people go kayaking all the time and people go air boating in the Everglades. So air boating is a lot bigger of a touristy item than kayaking, but yeah, people do go kayaking and get lost out there.
Heather Smith: Remind me never to go on a trip with you.
Will Lopez: Well, if we’re going to go we’re going to go air boating. We’re not going kayaking.
Heather Smith: Yeah. I think they used to have an … Is it an airboat they used to have in Flipper?
Will Lopez: Yeah, similar.
Heather Smith: Yeah, okay, we know Flipper. We used to watch it all the time.
Will, can you share with our listeners a bit about your background.
Will Lopez: Yeah, great question. So I’m an accountant by day and an accountant by night. I’ve been in public accounting my entire career. Ever since I was 20. I started in private accounting when I was 20. I started private accounting when I was 20. I was an internal auditor for a parking company that was startup down in South Florida, and built their processes to work with their valet teams, and their self-park teams. And went from that company to become a controller for a large not for profit that was generating something like $25 million a year and that was probably by the age of 23, 24.
Will Lopez: And all that time, I was a nontraditional student. I was going to Florida Atlantic University which was my local university down in South Florida, and going for my undergrad in accounting, my master’s in accounting yet non-traditionally going to school. So I worked full-time. Sometimes 60 hours a week, two jobs and would go to school non-traditionally.
Will Lopez: Then from there when I graduated college it took me about a year to find a job with a public accounting firm in South Florida called Daszkal Bolton, and that’s where I started my public accounting career as a financial statement auditor. So I was with Daszkal as a senior auditor for five years and specialised in privately held companies at the station work, audit work, 401K audits which is a benefits plan here that the companies can offer in the United States, and publically traded companies.
Will Lopez: So I didn’t do a lot of publically traded but I did a lot of private companies, and true to form, public accounting, I got burnt out. I had a family. I had my first son and I just thought to myself, “It’s no fun leaving before my son gets up and then getting home 15 minutes before he gets to bed.” So I just figured I couldn’t do that but I didn’t have the chops to actually changed industries. I still loved accounting very much and started AdvisorFi, which I held onto for about seven years prior to coming to Gusto. So AdvisorFi was a public accounting firm based in South Florida and that’s where I actually got a lot of my exposure to cloud accounting. Met the founders at Wave Accounting, which is a Canadian company that did bookkeeping software and that’s where I got my rise in cloud accounting.
Will Lopez: Built software in 2003 that integrated with Xero which was a Bi tool that I called CrunchBoards. This was prior to FUTRLI calling themselves FUTRLI. FUTRLI was also called CrunchBoards and apparently, there’s a little bit of spat then. I had no idea that FUTRLI had existed when I created my software.
Will Lopez: So anyway, pivoted to AdvisorFi Insights, which was my BI tool that we offered to clients in conjunction with our consulting side or accountancy side, and then built a practice, and by the end of my reign at AdvisorFi we had … We were in 38 states in the United States. We had clients in Canada that we were working doing ULC work, and a few clients in the UK, and one client in South America. And now I’m here at Gusto overseeing their partner programme for accounting professionals here in the United States.
Heather Smith: Excellent. I had no idea that you developed a business intelligence solution.
Will Lopez: Yeah.
Heather Smith: That’s amazing.
Will Lopez: Yeah, if you ever feel like you want to throw money down the drain and get an education around how to build software, I would say build your own software.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Well, you paid to go to university. Paying to build something like that is a learning experience as well, isn’t it?
Will Lopez: Well, and I joke about the throwing money down the drain because it was such a great experience and I’m proud to say that I was actually the first professional that partnered with Xero that I was both on the partner directory side, and the app directory side. And this was roughly 2013, 2014 where I got on both sides and it was my first attempt to really say that I was a very different cloud accountant. I wasn’t a cloud accountant that actually used cloud tools. I was a cloud accountant that not only used them but built them, and was able to really differentiate myself in the marketplace and that’s what really drove a lot of our growth was there were professionals that were using the tools and were very good at using tools, but as a true technologist I felt like, “Hey, I had built solutions and we a had full-time engineer at Gusto that was … I’m sorry, AdvisorFi that was billing solutions for me and building our integration.” So it was really exciting and I personally really loved it, and really gave me a very different perspective to cloud accounting.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. So you had a full-time engineer working in Gusto.
Do you see many practices in the US with a software engineers working within their practices.
Will Lopez: Yeah, so I had a full-time engineer at AdvisorFi. And so, no I did not. I did not see a lot of practitioners, a lot of accounting firms that had full-time engineers. Cloud adoption, especially early on was really felt like the wild, wild west and people were trying different things and accountants all across the globe really were trying all different sorts of things. That’s where I met Guy Pearson from Practice Ignition. I met Ryan Lazanis of Xen Accounting in Canada. That’s where I met LiveCA’s Josh Swag, who’s I think in Israel at the moment. And there were a lot of passionate accountants but not a lot of accountants who actually had hired engineers internally to try to build things.
Will Lopez: I personally built a solution to try to figure out what the cloud was really all about. What opportunity did I have as a practitioner to think about cloud accounting 1.0, and 2.0, and 3.0? What does it look like to go on a journey inside the cloud? What opportunities did I have as a practitioner to differentiate myself out there? And it was really good and quite honestly as far along as cloud accounting has come globally and in the United States, there’s still a lot of gaping holes as far as processes are concerned. And that’s where I felt like having a internal full-time engineer really helped close the gap, because while the marketplace has not moved in certain vertical or certain industries, or there aren’t real solid solutions to really solidify processes in a certain vertical using, let’s say, an app stack of five or six apps that you were committed to you could fill in a lot of that grout or that middle part using your own internal talent. And so that’s really where I honed in my personal practice in order to scale as well as we did and as internationally as we did.
Heather Smith: Excellent. I can’t believe I’ve learned a whole new side of you already. That’s amazing. You do so many extreme things but that’s really exciting that you’ve done that, Will.
You’re currently head of the accounting community at Gusto. Can you share with our listeners what Gusto does?
Will Lopez: Yeah, so Gusto is a payroll, benefits, and human resource platform here located in the United States serving US small businesses up to 100 employees, and the accounting professionals who empower them. So Gusto was founded I think in 2013 or 204 as Zen Payroll. So they started out in payroll only and over time has developed a partner programme for accounting practitioners to streamline their own workflows with their own clients. We have extended beyond payroll into benefits, into human resources, and we renamed ourselves to Gusto from Zen Payroll. So we rebranded ourselves.
Will Lopez: So Gusto right now is a people platform, and we define people platform as the integrated experience between payroll, benefits, and HR. So Gusto’s overall mission as far as serving small businesses and serving accounting professionals it to help create a world where work empowers a better life, and today now in in our age that’s not resonating and that’s hard to achieve. Especially with COVID-19 running rampant globally, but I think our ambitions stay true. We want to create a world where now businesses create a business model that endures, that sustains, that thrives hopefully over time, that survives now and thrives over time.
Will Lopez: And we build our product for small businesses and the solutions for accountants using three pillars to that mission, which is providing peace of mind, creating great place to work, or a safe place to work now, and then personal prosperity. So under those three pillars we develop, we engineer, we build our programmes, we empower the professionals to help themselves and their clients create peace of mind, to help themselves and their clients build great places to work, or enduring places to work, and then work through solutions and resources for themselves and for their clients to provide personal prosperity.
Will Lopez: So there’s definitely a prosperity gap here in the United States, and businesses that … And this is globally too, businesses that have the wherewithal and that have the cash flow generally have better processes. So they’re able to create better processes because they have better access to information and better software. So what I was so excited about even 10 years ago when I started my own practice was just how the accounting revolution happened globally around cloud, which basically democratised a lot of those amazing fortune 500 here stateside resources down to the lay business owner and the lay accountant. So I’ve been very passionate about that revolution that has happened, and so Gusto has a pulse on it when it comes to small businesses and for practitioners that serve them.
What’s your favourite feature of Gusto?
Will Lopez: Yeah, so favourite features, I’m personally very passionate about the accounting side of Gusto. So some of the bulk tools and features that we have built for accounts are just new territory for Gusto, and so whenever we roll something like that out Gusto tries to do things simply and perfectly for the pro, but, yeah, it consolidates a lot of that workflow for the professional.
Will Lopez: So, for example, here in the United States around Coronavirus you have this paycheck protection programme that our current president and Congress passed via legislation, and it helps small businesses get access to forgivable moneys that they can use to help preserve and protect that paycheck for themselves and for their employees. There are a million and one payroll companies here in the United States and so that’s one of the joys of living in the 50 united states. It feels like 50 different countries here stateside, but what has been good about this is Gusto built a feature that says, “Okay, you have 50 clients, 100 clients on Gusto. Let’s make this process so easy that in a few clicks you get all the access to the reports that you need almost immediately.”
Will Lopez: So Gusto is treading on new territory of trying to always thinking about collapsing workflows and collapsing learning curves for professionals. So those features, just the bulk tools that are built in very easy fashions are really nice features that I really like. I kind of liken it to just Apple’s experience. Apple does a great job of just making things easy but yet giving power. So whenever we do something like that at Gusto it really resonates with me to be like, “Yeah, that’s great. Power to the accountants. Easy to use.”
Heather Smith: Excellent, and I do notice that you frequently say this, empower the accountants.
Can I ask you what you mean by preserve and protect their paycheck? What does that mean?
Will Lopez: Yeah, so I think paychecks and payments has a long history, you know, especially here in the United States paying their workforce.
Heather Smith: Is a paycheck their wage?
Will Lopez: Correct, yes. Their wage.
Heather Smith: Okay.
Will Lopez: So salaries and wages, wage for employment. The paycheck is a term that basically says it’s an exchange of an employee’s time and effort in exchange for wages.
Heather Smith: Okay. Okay. So preserving their wages going forward. Okay.
Will Lopez: Correct.
Heather Smith: It seems that America with its 50 states, as you’ve touched one, has a very complex payroll system that you would be navigating as a small business working across America.
Do you think there’s an opportunity to streamline the American payroll in the different states? Do you think that’s something that could happen and is that something that Gusto lobbies for?
Will Lopez: Yeah, so the short answer is yes and yes. Yes, there are opportunities to help streamline the payroll experience for, or the wage experience for employees and the payroll experience for companies in the United States, and then secondly Gusto is lobbying on the hill or in Congress to represent small businesses or the small businesses that partner with Gusto and the accounting professionals who partner with Gusto to that end. What makes it difficult I think here in the US is because of a lot of the fractured experience between the federal government and the state governments, and the state governments and the local governments down to the municipal city governments, that’s where the challenge really comes into play around just any kind of streamlined experience.
Will Lopez: It’s no surprise or no secret that America really prides itself with a tonne of freedoms and rights, and Bill of Rights and all these kind of things and that generally comes with it a lot of baggage like this which is you have a lot of fractured experiences because we don’t have federal agencies speaking with state agencies. Or state agencies speaking with city agencies. And a lot of these agencies and governments, and smaller governments are isolated from its bigger counterparts, from its smaller counterparts and that plays into the United States framework of giving the states the power and keeping the government away from the states to a certain effect.
Will Lopez: So that’s where I think we see a lot of whiplash especially around Coronavirus here in the United States is every time something happens federally there’s a process for that federal mandate to go down to the stateside, and then everything down to the small business owner. So there’s massive whiplash that happens, and generally speaking, hopefully you have time to unpack this but, obviously, over the past seven weeks, the United States government has rolled more legislation than it has I think in all of its foundation since its founding. And not only that, but so have all the states.
Will Lopez: So there’s just a lot of aggressive bureaucracy that’s happening here in the United States that I think, yeah, there’s a lot of opportunity but there’s also a lot of friction just because of the nature of the structure.
Heather Smith: It sounds very complex.
Will Lopez: Yep.
Heather Smith: We have noticed here in Australia that it does seem, again, a lot of legislation has been rolled out but they seem to have been able to eliminate a lot of the red tape and it’d be interesting to see if going forward whether that … some red tape is necessary but whether other red tape will disappear, and we realise that was just a hindrance and perhaps just employing someone but-
Will Lopez: No, yeah and you’re absolutely correct. A lot of the legislation was to eliminate a lot of the bureaucracy and red tape, and to help especially our financial institutions absorb more risk as far as trying to give people money. So the government guaranteed a lot of the risk that banks would absorb, generally have to vet through and so the government says, “Hey, if we can guarantee that your risk will be mitigated then you should feel more comfortable in handing out money to people.”
With your knowledge of running a modern accounting practice and now working with a payroll solution provider what advice do you have for the accountants, bookkeepers, and business community to help them navigate through this crisis being COVID-19 crisis?
Will Lopez: Yeah, you know, I’m not going to say anything new because I think what I would say to Will at AdvisorFi at the moment is continue doing what you have seen done in the industry globally. You’ve seen a consolidation of resources, you’ve seen a lot of resources put together that for the purpose of creating a single source of truth through the general ledger that gets that single source of truth into a reliable place like the cloud that never crashes, and to lean in on your own firm processes that will streamline those two schools of thought.
Will Lopez: So one of the biggest takeaways for me around Coronavirus is when I look at the United States and its adoption of cloud accounting compared to its global counterparts, or even to the global environment. We are definitely laggers here in the United States. The profession at large in the United States has not adopted cloud accounting or modern resources like New Zealand has, like Australia has. UK is on par with the US a little bit, but Canada is drastically changing I think. So when you look at those counterparts that have adopted solutions that are very progressive, that future proof your practice, that future proof you clients I would say you need to now activate on the narrative that has been in play for about 10 years.
Will Lopez: So here in the United States, you just need to adopt what everyone has been talking about for roughly a decade, and you already have the resources to think through that. You already have partner programmes and accounting solutions like Gusto, like Xero, like whatever. Pick your accounting app of choice. They have already resources at play that you can easily get yourself into. So my hope is that people stop making excuses now and will see that the cloud really is a viable option. The internet is not a fad and these resources are real. They have real return on investment and can allow you as a practitioner to pivot on a dime especially an event like this which has forced everyone to pivot on a dime, and if you didn’t think that was possible … I did a lot of research of the 2008 United States Great Recession which was what happened roughly a decade ago here in the United States which impacted a lot of businesses and accountants, and then accountants were pivoting to at-home offices not to avoid a pandemic but to actually curb costs.
Will Lopez: And back then, accounts were flocking towards technology not to social distance but to actually automate and streamline work processes. But back then, they didn’t have solutions like Xero or Gusto, or any of these amazing solutions. So we are better positioned today than we ever have been as an industry globally to really adopt and move forward.
Heather Smith: Yeah, I totally agree with that and the phenomenal resources that are already out there that you can tap into, plus the partner programmes to really partner up with and start a business. I like the pivot on a dime.
Will Lopez: Yeah.
Heather Smith: I liked how you started that off saying, “If I was to talk to Will at AdvisorFi.” Do you talk to Will at AdvisorFi a lot?
Will Lopez: Yeah, yeah. So far he’s not spoken back. If he did, I would be concerned.
Heather Smith: One of the things about the crisis is people keep talking about the end of it and how we get through the end of it. However, we actually don’t know when that will be or what time period that’s going to be in. So
How can accountants and bookkeepers step into an advisor role mid-COVID-19 and then potentially post-COVID-19?
Will Lopez: Yeah, amazing history here. I at Gusto for our leadership did some research for us because accountants have been here, at least in the United States have been an event like this. This catastrophic in a sense of very impacting towards business life and profession life. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, they actually have a t-shirt and are veterans of this kind of helping themselves and their clients work through a tough moment and beyond the tough moment. The time period that I’m particularly referring to is the Great Recession of 2008 through 2010 here in the United States/
Will Lopez: During that time in the United States, we had a huge real estate bubble collapse and a bubble pop, and a lot of industries were affected. Jobs were lost by the droves and in the United States, the accounting profession lost roughly 40 to 45% of its workforce. So the two terms that came out of the Great Recession here in the US were Flat is Up, and the Accountant Recession or the Recession-proof Accountant. So the two terms that came out of it was flat is up and the recession-proof accountant. Flat is Up meant that accounting firms during that period were able to achieve flat growth year over year even though their workforce was eliminated by 40%. So they were able to maintain revenues flat even though their workforce took a big hit, which earned them the title and they were able to help their clients endure during the Great Recession, and they earned the title the Recession Proof Accountant because of that.
Five specific tactics and strategies that accountants used during the Great Recession
- They focused on client retention.
- They had very myopic practice development.
- They improved firm processes.
- They dived deep into community engagement.
- They streamlined receivables.
Will Lopez: So when you look back at the framework of what they did back then. So there were five specific tactics and strategies that accountants used back during the Great Recession, and they exactly this. They focused on client retention. So they spent more time with existing clients finding more and new ways to better serve their existing base.
Will Lopez: They had very myopic practice development, which basically meant that they were aggressively targeting their expertise and their niche, and they were observing their clients for more work or observing new growth markets for opportunities.
Will Lopez: And the third thing they did back then was they improved firm processes. So they refined and restructured firm processes, built remote efficiencies, they automated and adopted new technology to help with production and productivity.
Will Lopez: They dived deep into community engagement. So they actually engaged in pro to pro accountability moments leaning on remote workforces and seasonal help more than ever during that time because at that time they lost almost half of their workforce.
Will Lopez: Then the last thing they did which was towards the tail end of the Great Recession, or post, let’s say six months of the initial impact was they streamlined receivables. So they showed sensitivity to beleaguered clients. They never fired clients during this period, because obviously clients pay the bills but what they did was they showed sensitivity in the billing and then they streamlined and they billed poorly realising clients, speeding up collections for clients that had low margins and gave a little grace to clients that had better margins.
Will Lopez: So these were the real tactics that were used during that period, and from my community observation here at Gusto this is exactly the same playbook that we’re seeing unfold right now during COVID-19. You’re seeing accountants really focus with clients, making sure that they endure. You’re seeing accountants really aggressively ask their clients for how can we help? How can we help you understand new legislation? And then they’re analysing their client’s behaviour. How can we take this restaurant client like here in the United States and get them to use things like DoorDash or Uber Eats, or things of that sort to help offset revenues.
Will Lopez: The firm themselves are working through improved work processes. This is driving them to cloud adoption. Accountants are diving deep into community trying to figure out what to do, who’s doing what? How do I learn? What resources are being done around Coronavirus and then we’re not seeing this at the moment but I believe we’ll see this very soon. I think you’ll see the profession move quickly towards streamlining receivables.
Will Lopez: So I think here in the United States accountants are not charging for legislation understanding and learning, but that’s why Practice Ignition has rolled out 12 business continuity templates to help accountants think through engaging their clients around Coronavirus revenue opportunities, and we’re starting to see some of that happen here in the United States as accountants are getting themselves in line for future enduring moments and future thriving moments as a profession. And that’s exactly what happened back in 2008. So there’s a playbook I think already that exists and those are the five ways and we’re seeing that play out around Coronavirus, especially here in the United States.
Heather Smith: Absolutely. That just mirrors everything that I’m seeing happening within the community here in Australia. So that was very insightful of you and, yeah, look, Practice Ignition have put some useful templates out that the community can use and I know that there’s a organisation here called Change GPS that focuses on helping tax accountants use tools to drive their business. And they put out a lot of tools around that collection side of it that you were touching on there. So David Boyar will be happy that I mentioned that.
Educate, guide now, and earn later during the global crisis.
Heather Smith: And you have touched on that but I want to circle back to this. You mentioned that accountants and bookkeepers should consider educate, guide now, and earn later during the global crisis. So anything else you’d like to add to that?
Will Lopez: Yeah, so that has been my personal analysis of where I think I would be as a practitioner at this moment, and I think it’s a position that Gusto has taken even though we’ve not said it publicly. Which is to education now and earn later. And what I basically meant from that was that management is doing the right things, leadership is doing things right and what has caused Gusto to stand out drastically here in the United States compared to all the alternative thought you can get yourself into is because we’ve just been really, really focused on doing things right and doing things right for small business owners. Doing things right for accountants and that generally does not mean putting Gusto first. We’ve had a lot of long days. We still have long days. We’ve been working days, nights, and weekends to create all the right resources to make sure that small businesses are able to survive and then thrive. To create all the right resources and tools for accountants to help themselves and their clients survive and thrive.
Will Lopez: So we just look at that as educating our users now. Getting them up to speed and we think that by educating them now we’ll earn later. We’ll earn their trust, we’ll earn their loyalty, we’ll earn the role that Gusto was really here for them the whole time and we weren’t on this two way street of exchanging money for software. So that Gusto really wants to redefine what it means to partner with a resource and that generally means, especially in moments like this, that the resource takes the backseat. It does whatever it can to put its users absolutely first. Even at its own detriment. Even at its own capacity. You know, excess capacity.
Will Lopez: So that has just really driven our strategy of just if we can educate and power now, we will earn later and we’re not going to put a lot of stake in the earning later, we’re just going to put a lot of stake into educating and empowering our users, and our accountants, and our small businesses now but we believe that that’s a recipe for success because by doing what’s right people will trust us and will know that we’re behind them.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. And I scan the social media of accountants and bookkeepers frequently and there’s been such positive commentary about Gusto and your support of the community. So definitely see that coming out from these terrible times. That has been a shining light in these difficult times.
You went from running a modern practice to heading up the accounting community at Gusto. Has the role ended up being what you expected it would be, and what advice would you have for someone else taking up a community role?
Will Lopez: Yeah, so it’s actually been more than I expected it to be. It’s drastically more work than I thought it would be, but it’s very fulfilling. There is a lot of opportunity for … And I really admire you out there because I see you out there in the community globally, and I think it’s such an amazing role to be in but then yet a very weighty responsibility that you have because A, it’s a little bit above and beyond your own passion of interviewing people like me or putting resources together. But it’s proper representation of where the profession is going at large.
Will Lopez: And many times in the community motion of things you could see, to us an analogy, you could see where the hockey puck is going to but sometimes certain companies or certain countries aren’t skating to where the puck is going. So you have this dichotomy between where you see the profession going globally or here in the United States from the community perspective, and then a gap between where that community’s going and where the resources are going.
Will Lopez: So it’s been everything I dreamed it would be. It’s a lot more than I really imagined it would be and it’s a little bit more weighty than I really thought it would be because it’s about properly represented the community of accountants to Gusto internally. So I have a big responsibility to not only represent Gusto to the accounting profession at large, but then I have a even bigger responsibility to represent the accounting profession at large inside to Gusto so that way Gusto is actually doing what’s right around its key stakeholders.
Will Lopez: So I’ve been enjoying it. I think I’ll be here at Gusto for quite a long time. They’re going to have to kick me out because I did not sell my practice AdvisorFi to come to Gusto to fail. So it’s been great and so much work to be done, but I think for anybody who’s trying to get into that side of the equation I would say it’s really a, not a one-way street as far as community is concerned. You want to represent whatever company you’re trying to represent out to the profession correctly and then you want to do an even better job of representing the profession into the company internally.
Will Lopez: So one of the big roles I’ve done here it Gusto is actually start something called Voice of the Accountant. So inside Gusto, we have these personas that we’ve built up and these learning moments that we can teach our Gustees. So Gustees are Gusto employees here at Gusto. So I own the Voice of the Accountant initiative here at Gusto where I create a voice of the accountant using our own data to say, “Here’s where Gusto partners are going. External data, here’s where global research is going. Here’s where the global profession’s going. Where the AICPA, which is the American Institute for Certified Public Accountants here in the United States is talking about.” And really properly representing the community internally through internal initiatives.
Will Lopez: My department actually owns research around the accounting profession. So external research. So if Sage is doing something, if the AICPA is doing something, if any kind of global research is being done we own that. So we serve those digests, those key learning moments internally so we help represent cross-functionally to the team members around external research and we own that internal research which is the Voice of the Accountant. So from a community perspective, it’s really just owning both sides and then properly representing each side to the other.
Heather Smith: Yeah, excellent. Thank you for sharing that. It is interesting when you are working within the community being able to surface the quieter voices and to be able to surface the different and potentially unexpected voices. So it is a really important role, but also you need the boundaries in place which the overwork and time.
Will Lopez: Exactly.
Heather Smith: That can be challenging. So thank you for that. So you are Will, also you are a content creating machine. You have one of the most popular accounting YouTube channels in the world at AdvisorFi, which I recommend listeners take a look at. However, if you search for Will Lopez in YouTube you get a hairdressing channel. So I’ll put a link in the notes to your actual channel so people can actually find it.
Heather Smith: So as a fellow YouTuber I’ll ask you one very detailed specific question about YouTube.
What tools do you use to make the thumbnails – the holding images you look at on the YouTube page?
Will Lopez: Yeah, you know, I don’t get super creative with the thumbnails as far as the software I use I actually use Mac’s or Apple’s MacBook Pro’s Preview. So just the installed Preview software allows me to open up images and edit them, and overlay transparent images on top of each other. So I use Preview to actually create my thumbnails to just create eye-catching thumbnails, and I just follow YouTube’s guidance around thumbnail size and all that kind of stuff. But I don’t do anything creative around the thumbnail other than just make sure that the thumbnail looks like, you know. It makes it look like something you want to click on.
Heather Smith: And you use the transparent images are very impactful and effective. Someone must’ve taken some photos of you to … And there’s one of you of a chainsaw as well. So you did make some effort to go and find a chainsaw to do that.
Will Lopez: Yeah, and for anybody that was familiar with my practice a good majority of my leads and my clients from YouTube. So that was a revenue-generating platform for me and a lead generating platform, you know, small businesses would watch my content and realise that, “Wow, okay. This is a different kind of professional. He’s using really different kind of tools and resources. Sounds like somebody I may want to work with.” And so mainly for that audience and a good lead generation.
Heather Smith: And I think, for people listening in, what is really important is that they heard your voice and they got to see you, and they got to resonate with you’re the type of person that I want to work with. So when it comes to accounting and bookkeeping information, technically a lot of it is quite the same. So I have my channel and I come across as a very comforting, calm, older person. So that’s the type of person who would be attracted to that. So even though we might put our … We don’t because yours is American tax, et cetera.
Will Lopez: Right.
Heather Smith: But similar types of information. Having that persona and that brand behind it, whether you think about it or not is still quite useful to actually do something up on YouTube.
Will Lopez: Yeah, and realise too, and this is not exclusive to the United States that as an accounting professional a client does not pay you for the research or the fundamentals of what you’ve learned. They pay you for your expertise and your consulting around those fundamentals. You know, if clients wanted to go right to the well of source they could just buy an accounting 101 book from Amazon or something like that.
Heather Smith: Like Xero for Dummies.
Will Lopez: Right, like Xero for Dummies and they would go straight for that, but they engage professionals because of the complexity of perspective, the analysis of connecting all the dots together on their behalf, and you’re absolutely right. The reason why I think we ended up resonating really well with our YouTube content was not because we’ve said anything new. I didn’t say anything new but what it did was put into context that we were very outside the box thinkers around this and we were able to take very complicated technical information and really digest it down into something relatable. Something that someone could understand and felt like, “Okay, that company looks very trustworthy because they’re able to say something that sounds nostalgic, it sounds familiar but I can relate with.”
Heather Smith: Absolutely, absolutely. Completely agree. So you recently ran a webinar with Blake Oliver via Accounting Salon called How Do You Make Multiple Pieces Of Content For The Truly Lazy? Which is quite, I don’t know what the word is but you are the hardest working person in the accounting industry, but let’s say the truly lazy. So I’m going to read out my quick synopsis of the webinar so you don’t have to remember it, okay?
How To Make Multiple Pieces Of Content For The Truly Lazy.
- Set a deadline for a live webinar.
- From the webinar create long-form guide.
- From the long-form guide create multiple articles.
- From the articles gain bylines.
- From the webinar create a non-demand webinar.
- Create a podcast episode from the webinar.
- Create short videos from the webinar.
See you made it sound so easy.
Will Lopez: Yeah, which was basically try your best to take one piece of content and turn it into a bunch of different pieces.
Heather Smith: Absolutely. Reuse, recycle, reuse. Yep.
Will Lopez: Yep, correct. Yeah, so obviously that’s not lazy at all to really think thoroughly through something like that but I think where professionals and accountants catch themselves is overthinking, and quite honestly almost treating a piece of content that they create as the ultimate or the apex of that content experience. And they don’t realise that when viewers or readers, or anybody interested in that piece of content, they have different perspectives and the way people learn is very different, right? You have tactile learners, you have listeners who are auditory learners, and visual learners.
Will Lopez: So you can create the same piece of content that speaks to different learning styles, and that’s pretty much what we’re trying to say is create pieces of content that speaks to different learning styles and you could create the exact same content in audio form, video form and you’d be surprised that the same person could different takeaways in each form of style and it happens all the time.
Will Lopez: So somebody may listen to a podcast and say, “Ah, I never thought of it that way.” Or they may see a visual and they say, “I would’ve never have imagined it like that.” So that’s the takeaway of just our session is you have a lot of opportunity to create different perspectives around the same content.
Heather Smith: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Completely agree with that. Refine, reuse, recycle, update.
Will Lopez: Yep.
What’s next for you, Will?
Will Lopez: Yeah, I don’t know what’s next for me.
Heather Smith: We need something to fill in this marathon.
Will Lopez: You know, I think what’s next for me is to continue doing what I’m doing at Gusto. Gusto actually has a really big announcement coming up. I will not spoil it here unfortunately, it’s very, very under wraps. But I could tell you right now that Gusto will have probably its largest announcement in late July. So at least I can give you the date. How about July 29th? Around the accounting profession. So probably the biggest announcement it’s ever had other than its founding, and it’s actually something that I’ve been working on very exclusively and something that I put together even during my interviewing. So it was an idea that I floated across that where Gusto can leave a legacy for the accounting profession globally. So this an idea that actually can be utilised globally, but particularly will be made active for Gusto partners here in the United States and I’m very excited about that. So we’ve been working very hard in the midst of Coronavirus, pre-Coronavirus, in the midst of Coronavirus, and post-Coronavirus to actually get this into the hands of accountants to show accountants that Gusto really does want to redefine what it means to partner with a resource as far as accounting professionals are concerned.
Will Lopez: I love my profession very, very much and I think there’s a big opportunity for people like me to influence solutions like Gusto to say, “What can we do next that will change the way accountants work with solutions like Gusto? What should accountants expect from solutions like Gusto above and beyond a partner programme? Above and beyond this exchange of money for software? How can this solution really invest into the profession at large long-term in a way that lets them be resilient, helps them generate income, gives them a sustainable practice?” Right?
Will Lopez: So that is what’s next in my future and that will be announced in late July., and will drive a lot of what I do at Gusto and for the profession long-term. So I’m very excited for that. Can’t tell what it is but I’m excited. That’s what’s next for me.
Heather Smith: Oh, I’m excited too. I want to become a Gusto partner now.
Will Lopez: Well, good news here is it’ll be a virtual announcement so because of Coronavirus we were trying to do a little bit of Apple’s WWDC where we would have a few 100 Gusto partners in the audience, we would do this big online presence, but it’s all going to be online. Un-gated, anybody can join and perhaps we’ll work together in doing a Watch Party on Facebook or something.
Heather Smith: Awesome. Let’s do that. Thank you very much, Will, for sharing everything today. Really appreciated you coming on Cloud Stories.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our listeners and how can they get in contact with you?
Will Lopez: Well, I would say register for Heather’s podcast, it’s amazing. And, Heather, thank you so much. This has been lovely and it’s always good to hear from you. I was hoping to see you this year but Coronavirus ruined that for us, but I see you now virtually through Zoom. But yeah, I would say follow Heather closely. She’s really on the pulse of everything and I greatly appreciate everything that you do.
Heather Smith: Oh, thank you very much. That’s very kind of you, Will, and are really grateful to have you on the podcast, and people can follow you on Twitter. What’s your Twitter handle? It’s kind of unusual, isn’t it?
Will Lopez: Yeah, it’s @zewillster. So Z-E-W-I-L-L-S-T-E-R.
Heather Smith: Very good. Awesome. Thank you.
Will Lopez: Thank you.