Today we are speaking with Renee Daggett, EA, of AdminBooks, a runner up in the 2017 Global Firm of the Future contest. Read more to learn about Renee’s journey and what makes AdminBooks a Firm of the Future.
Mindy King: Congratulations on being a Runner Up in the 2017 Global Firm of the Future contest! Tell us about yourself and your business and what makes your business a Firm of the Future.
Renee Daggett: We are a small accounting firm in Morgan Hill, Calif., with 14 team members helping clients with bookkeeping, payroll and taxes. One hundred percent of our monthly bookkeeping clients are on QuickBooks® Online (QBO). The only time we work with QuickBooks Desktop is on a project basis, consulting with the client or helping them clean up their files.
Our firm is completely paperless and in the cloud. This has enabled us to hire smart accountants and bookkeepers in remote locations. For our tax team that works remotely, we not only prepare tax returns from a cloud-based server, but we also meet with clients quarterly via web meeting to provide real-time projections and strategy/advice. We embrace technology by using QBO, Asana, SmartVault, QuickBooks Online Accountant, Google Docs, DocuSign and others. What makes us a Firm of the Future is our ability to use smart technologies to help us be efficient and provide peace of mind to our clients.
MK: What’s on the horizon for your firm in 2018?
RD: While earning the top 15 in last year’s Firm of the Future contest was an affirmation that we are on the right track, our plans are the same as last year: review our process and look for opportunities to improve the client experience, as well as provide quality financial statements and accurate tax returns with the best business practices. Our bookkeepers will continue to update their QuickBooks’ certifications and earn ACE credits. Our tax preparers will undertake significant continuing education so we can be abreast of the largest tax reform changes in over 30 years. Our goal will be to make sure clients understand the changes and how they affect their specific situation for tax year 2018. We will be focusing on tax planning, quarterly meetings and tax projections. For our bookkeeping clients, education on the new laws will be brought to their attention monthly via our video recordings of their financial statements reminding them to be audit ready.
MK: What apps do you typically use? Any you recommend as a must have?
MK: About how much time would you say apps and cloud-based technologies save you and your business?
RD: Depending on the business industry and needs of the client, apps can save anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours of valuable time each month. Since apps sync with QBO, details seamlessly transfer to their file, providing clients with efficiency and savings.
MK: Does your firm provide tax services, and if so, what software do you use?
RD: AdminBooks is focused on being a one-stop-shop for clients who need bookkeeping and payroll assistance, along with corporate and individual tax return preparation. We use a cloud-based server to host Intuit® ProConnect™ Lacerte®, which enables our remote team members to securely access the paperless files from any location.
MK: How does your firm use social media to its advantage?
RD: One of our core values at AdminBooks is to educate our clients, and we do this in several ways: reviewing a tax return line-by-line, emailing newsletters twice a month to our 3,000 subscribers, recording a customized video reviewing bookkeeping clients’ financial statements and posting rich content on social media. Currently, we have more than 1,000 fans on our business Facebook page. Every Monday, we post an interactive question on social media that we call “Monday Oddball Deduction Day,” where we pose a fun question asking the reader to vote if the IRS allowed the deduction. One of our recent questions was, “A dairy farmer deducted an African safari on his tax return. Did the IRS allow this deduction?” With the posts on social media, we are able to provide tips, testimonials, cartoons and videos, making bookkeeping and taxes fun and interesting!
MK: For accounting firms not yet using social media, what would your advice be for them to take the first step?
RD: Pick the ONE social media outlet that is the most comfortable platform for you. Create a master list of your posts so that you can reuse them multiple times and not constantly have to create new content. Have a mixture of education, fun, and promotional items. Post different times of the day. Evoke content that will promote interaction. We find that boosting our Facebook posts helps us reach other viewers that are interested in knowing more and engaging with us.
MK: How do you balance between marketing your firm and run-the-business type work?
RD: When my boys were young, my focus on work priorities was dictated by the time I had available. That meant I did not do much marketing. As my boys got older, I worked more hours to get AdminBooks visible to others. I went to networking meetings, spoke at events, did webinars, taught QuickBooks classes and created an ideal marketing plan. I did not always execute every detail of the plan, but the plan motivated me. I am now in a season of business where I can delegate some of these tasks to members of my team, such as initiating our blog posts and social media, testing new ideas to see what works best.
MK: What’s your advice for getting online and adopting cloud technologies?
RD: I am a person that is resistant to change – I order the same thing at a restaurant because I can predict it will be delicious. It is in my comfort zone. With technology, I felt the same. When I first started working with QBO, it was super awkward. However, as Intuit improved the product and I got more accustomed to the software, I was sold on how efficient it was. From that point forward, we embraced technology. Long gone are the days when someone would call a travel agent to book a flight for their next vacation. The same is true for the tax and bookkeeping world – everything is going to the cloud, and if you are not, you will be left behind!
MK: How would you encourage firms to employ a value-based billing model?
RD: My personality is one that wants to plan and analyze details. I am sure I am not alone when speaking with a group of accountants. My best advice about moving to value-based billing is to talk with a handful of people that are doing what you want to do. Then, take the BEST of each and create a business model that fits your personality. It will never be perfect. You will price some clients wrong. Know that when you overlook something in your pricing, it will help mold your pricing process to be even better. Start with new clients; I found that it was more difficult to move some current clients to a different pricing model. Be willing to disengage with your clients that don’t fit your new business model. The faster you do, the more profitable you will be! Don’t be surprised to get more clients than you had before because they love that there are no surprises with your bookkeeping fees.
MK: What’s the biggest impact you have had on a client’s small business? Any favorite client stories worth sharing?
RD: When one of our top clients first came to AdminBooks, her primary concern was that her previous bookkeeper wasn’t comfortable using technology, which caused her business to lose profitability due to invoicing issues. The client had also been paying a staffing agency to process her payroll, which was inefficient. Quickly, we migrated the client to QBO, set her up with Intuit Online Payroll, and connected her with third party vendors who could provide integrated solutions for employee time tracking, document transfer, and data storage needs. Since AdminBooks has been in charge of her bookkeeping, our client has seen significant growth in her business and has developed greater visibility within her field, leading to a stellar reputation as a top consultant within the human resources community.
MK: If you weren’t an accountant, what would you be and why?
RD: Alongside my husband, I would love to move to another country to be a missionary and help people with a business or perhaps help the charitable organization with their books. I have looked at opportunities in Chile, Tanzania, and even with Mercy Ships (a charitable hospital ship.)
MK: What advice would you give to a firm trying to transition from their old ways to become a Firm of the Future?
RD: Be hungry to constantly learn and grow. Make a list of things you want to achieve in the next year and break it down to focus on three things per quarter. Glean the wisdom of your team or QuickBooks family. Delegate tasks to your staff to help you. Hire a coach to challenge you. Be a reader or listen to books via Audible. Love on your team and care for them as you want to be treated. Hire team members who are rockstars, embrace the cloud and embrace your vision of how you want to make a difference in the life of others!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Firm of the Future blog.