2017 Scaling New Heights Conference

A year ago, I attended my first Woodard Scaling New Heights conference. This is one of the three conferences that accounting technology geeks like me get really excited about — the other two being Accountex (formerly Sleeter Technology) and QB Connect (which I’ll be attending later this year for my first time). I absolutely loved it. I’d been to Sleeter for two years in a row, and as much as I enjoyed attending, one of their successes was helping me realize that I really want to be a QuickBooks-centric practice… I’m not interested in branching out into non-QB accounting options such as Xero, Wave, Zoho, etc. I only know this because of excellent presentations such as Greg Lam and Michelle Long‘s overviews — so I’m indebted to them — but colleagues there suggested that maybe SNH was a better choice for me, since it’s more QB-centric. (They were right.)

One problem remains. I’m not one for motivational speeches. I run my own CPA firm, so if I’m going to take time off work and pay for conference fees, travel & lodging, I’d better be spending that time and money learning something that will help me when I get back to the office — measurable results, real-life advice, tips & tricks that I can put into action to improve my clients’ lives and make me more efficient. Motivational speeches and entertainment just aren’t “worth” my time — I sit through them wishing I’d spent the time doing almost anything else. While we’re at it: I also can’t stand sales pitches. Nor information that is so general, I feel I’ve heard it all before. Finding the right conferences can be a bit of a challenge.

I was a little disappointed in the last Sleeter Technology Conference (now Accountex) I attended. In my opinion, there are too many “keynote” sessions… ones that are meant to “fire up” the audience and get us excited, or big names that we can brag about having seen in-person. These sessions are the only ones that are not concurrent with other learning sessions, meaning that 1) there’s nothing else to do during these sessions, and yet 2) there are so many concurrent sessions that I can’t attend because — well, they’re simultaneous. I wish they’d offer some of those during the keynotes so that I don’t miss the chance to go to more of them.

Yes, I know I can play “hooky” during these sessions — as my colleagues regularly remind me — but honestly, come on: I’m paying to be there. Ideally, the entire conference would be so amazing that I never want to skip out on it (though it is challenging, since they’re always held in interesting places). It might be different if my boss paid my way, but I am the boss! I can’t do billable work while I’m in sessions, so I’m effectively giving up my salary for the entire trip; plus, all of the costs are coming out of my own pocket. I’m not inclined to cheat myself out of much-valued education.

Furthermore, the breakout sessions offered by vendor-partners (presenters that are also at the conference expo, hawking their wares to us) are too often — as mentioned above — 1) either a sales pitch, which is no fun at all and just fosters resentment, or 2) more likely, the vendor has been threatened so hard NOT to make it a sales pitch, that they only offer extremely general “insights” into the industry that motivated them to create a solution. Except… see, we’re already aware of these “insights” — that’s why we attended the session in the first place: to find solutions to the problems we’re already aware exist. What we want when we attend these vendor-presented sessions is in-between these angles: a brief description of the industry issues, and then a specific explanation of how they attempted to solve these issues, and a demo of how it works. That’s not sales — that’s education on a particular piece of software, which allows us to evaluate programs based on how they work, not based on a marketing team’s list of bullet points. (I especially love vendor sessions that are on one particular topic and invite more than one vendor to illustrate their solution to it. That way we get a side-by-side, and can ask questions candidly.)

But the best sessions of all are offered by independent practitioners showing us how they use these various products to solve real-life problems that they’ve come across in their own practices. And that is what I got at last year’s Woodard “Scaling New Heights” conference.

Yes, as with their big competing conference, there were too many keynote “general sessions”. In fact, Joe Woodard’s initial presentation about how Poseidon was going to flood the room (but it’s okay… because he had a “magical force field around us” ???) — was so bad that I was terrified I’d made a serious mistake in attending. (To reiterate: I desperately wish they’d offer an alternative to the general sessions for those of us who prefer to focus on specific learning.)

But — WOW — did they make up for these with some of the best breakout sessions I’ve ever attended. Hector Garcia’s Quickbooks sessions were all incredible, with real-life tips and best practices. I passed the QBO certification with flying colors, no doubt in part to his training. Will English, who I initially met at Sleeter (and who writes for Intuitive Accountant), gave an insightful session on POS solutions — specifically ones that work for retail inventory maanagement. Norman Axelman did a couple great sessions on Excel tricks — he was very generous with his time and eager to solve everyone’s issues. Stacy Kildal was one of my favorite presenters, as she nailed the two-prong approach that most appeals to me: 1) new technologies 2) applied in real-life situations. Her session on QBO apps was insightful and inspiring, and I wish there were a three-hour-long session where I could just watch her work. David Leary from Intuit was one of the most sincere “big-deal” presenters I’ve ever seen; to some extent he restored some of my trust in QB. His eagerness to answer questions and explain the “why” behind big-company decisions was refreshing.

One recommendation to organizers (and DIY attendees) — I always go through the directory of exhibitors and sort them by type of solution: financial analysis, business management/workflow, inventory, publications, POS systems, payroll, 1099/W-2 prep, etc. So it certainly would be helpful if the exhibitors were color-coded by industry, to help us decide who to visit in our limited time away from sessions.

I’m headed back there this week, eager to soak up as much information as I can, and to avoid as many references to the “Yeti” of our practice challenges that we all have to face. (I’m not kidding; that’s the theme.) And if that turns you off as much as it does me, please reconsider, because there are 98 pages of training session information — and I’m just talking about the summaries of the sessions, not the handouts. Plenty of non-Yeti material for us all.

Stacey Byrne will be offering Restaurant Industry Tips & Tricks; MB Raimondi will be teaching the QB Desktop Advanced ProAdvisor Certification Exam Prep; Michelle Long is teaching Apps 101; and Stacy Kildal and Ingrid Edstrom are teaching the session that most interests me: a People’s Choice Peer-Led Apps Training that compares Fathom and LivePlan.

I hope to see you at Scaling New Heights!

Source: 2017 Scaling New Heights Schedule – Woodard

Upcoming Webinar on Internal Controls Self-Assessment

The National Society of Accountants for Cooperatives is offering a webinar on Monday, June 19 entitled “Internal Controls Self-Assessment: How to recognize warning signs and prevent potentially problematic situations”.  This short webinar promises to be useful and informative not just for cooperatives and their accountants, but for any business that may have as-yet unidentified risks inherent in their internal controls.

It’s being presented by Bill Judd and Jim Halvorsen of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP — I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jim at a couple of the National Cooperative Business Association’s “Co-op Professionals Conference” get-togethers, and I’m sure they’ll do a great job with this topic.  Jim will be presenting later this year at the NSAC Tax, Accounting & Finance for Cooperatives conference as well.

Source: NSAC Cooperative Learning Network – Internal Controls Self-Assessment-How to recognize warning signs and prevent potentially problematic situations

Tips from ‘Accounting Today’ on Securing Client Data

The Security Summit, a partnership between the IRS, state tax agencies and the private sector tax industry, is sharing information and tips aimed at tax professionals that help them protect their clients’ data from those who would try to hack into the data they use to file their clients’ taxes.

In addition to this advice from the IRS, Accounting Today offers seven specific things you can start doing now to help you protect client data:

1. Audit your data protection practices
2. Make sure your clients know about email security
3. Don’t ignore physical security
4. Is your WiFi secure?
5. Are your files regularly backed up?
6. Prohibit employees from accessing client data on their personal computers
7. Encourage your clients to take an active role in monitoring their data security

See the full article for more info: 7 tips for keeping client data secure | Accounting Today.

By taking a proactive approach to protect your clients’ data, rather than waiting for a successful attack on your accounting practice, you can potentially avoid the financial harm your clients could experience should their data be stolen.

Best Small Business Blogs of 2017

I’m proud to announce that once again this blog was chosen as one of FitSmallBusiness.com‘s Best Accounting Blogs of 2017.  This year, they took all their “best of” blogs for small businesses and sub-divided them into fields, such as accounting, retail, finance, marketing, e-commerce, tech, insurance, real estate, legal, etc.  It’s solid one-stop shopping for the entrepreneur wanting to research topics that affect them.

As was the case last year, I’m especially pleased to be included in such impressive company, such as The Accountex Report (formerly the Sleeter Technology blog) and StacyK Academy (a favorite resource and speaker).

I started this blog as a space to store and index my research on various client accounting and tax issues somewhere within reach and easy-to-find, where others in my situation might also benefit from it.  I had no idea it would develop such a following.  The best part about the information age is being able to share our knowledge and experiences with each other — thanks for contributing!

Source: The Best Small Business Blogs of 2017

Bonnie Nagayama In Memoriam

I received the extremely sad news during the height of tax season, and am only now finding the words to express my sense of loss.

Bonnie Nagayama was a gifted and educated CPA and QuickBooks ProAdvisor who regularly contributed to our community with lectures, webinars, articles, videos, and her excellent blog… and she was a wealth of information. Generous beyond compare, and a resource to us all; quick to assist in any way possible; and eager to help make connections in the industry with an eye toward providing client value. In a statement from her company, McWilliams & Associates:

With a sad heart we need to inform you of Bonnie Nagayama’s passing on March 3, 2017. Bonnie had worked with QuickBooks since the early 90s and was a member of the Intuit Reseller Program since the beginning of the program. She will be missed by all those in the QuickBooks community.

Both Insightful Accountant and The Progressive Accountant have written short articles on her passing as well, and many in the community have taken time to share their memories online, such as Doug Sleeter, who called her, “A good friend of mine and someone who helped everyone around her.” (Bonnie was one of the chief consultants for The Sleeter Technology Group and a frequent presenter at the Sleeter Conference.)  I especially appreciated Clayton Oates’ moving personal tribute.

Bonnie always made time for me, and as a leading QuickBooks reseller, made time for my clients when they needed to purchase the right bookkeeping solution for their situation. I appreciated that she’d call when she had a client in my area who needed assistance, and our network of CPAs, accountants, bookkeepers and ProAdvisors would work to make sure they got the best service possible. She was dedicated and hardworking, but also personable and kind.  Her quiet demeanor was a calming influence, and her dedication to providing the best continuing education possible was inspiring.

She will be greatly missed.