Monday, July 25, 2011 - 09:07

The term has been around since the 70’s andBeancounter refers to accountants  that are so meticulous that they count every bean when doing inventory. Having worked at Price Waterhouse in the 90’s, I can appreciate the value in such thoroughness. But having worked with many accountants thru Intuit, PayCycle and now Bill.com, I know it is far from the truth of what you do.

That is why, when I hear competitors (that shall remain nameless) refer to accountants as “Bean Counters”, I get annoyed. They clearly don’t understand what you do every day and where the profession is heading. Nor do they understand what your clients really need. As we come to the end of the year and the last remaining tradeshows for the year, there is no better reminder of this than the annual Sleeter conference. Accountants get together to learn how to help small businesses manage and build their business using the newest techniques and technologies. The profession has moved well beyond the numbers.

However, with so many new opportunities you have to focus or else you will only offer partial solutions to your clients. As accountants, your plate is full. Your clients call with tax questions, estate planning, technology issues, bookkeeping needs, audit requirements and general business advice. What is the best way to focus?

My suggestion is to pick one thing as a specialty and to leverage your network and or other employees for the other needs of your clients. The specialty could be anything-- systems integration, estate planning, tax advice, business management or a broad generalist.  Whatever it is just make sure you like doing it. This is crucial as you are going to end up doing whatever it is over and over again.  More importantly, your positive energy will lead to better creativity and hence, solutions for your customers. 

Once you have your focus, or specialty as I call it, you need to position your self and or your firm to acquire customers. In addition, you need to extend your network so that you can help your clients no matter what the question is. I think today’s social networking tools can help you do both at the same time. 

By now you have undoubtedly come across LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Each of these tools have their place in extending your network and promoting your business. First let’s discuss the granddaddy of social networking, LinkedIn.

LinkedIn started in 2003 as a place for people to stay connected with those in their network and to connect to your networks’ network. The first thing you do is create a simple profile of your career. I highly recommend getting a few people you have worked with to recommend you. You should of course return the favor. This will give more credibility to your resume.  Ideally, you would have them discuss your “specialty”. Once you have done that, you’ll be surprised to see how big your network is.  When one extends their network to their friend’s network and so on it is pretty easy to get connected to anyone.  For example, I have 658 direct connections in my account. Those 658 individuals have a total of 213k connections and those 213k connections have over 8M connections. Pretty amazing to see how small the world is. Granted some of the connections might be loose but the network does work. I have found employees, partners and customers thru Linkedin. In fact, I just got pinged by a very interesting partner thru a friend of a friend.

In the last few years, LinkedIn has been leveraging the network via user groups. These groups are similar to the old Compuserve forums we may have used but way more effective given the size of the network.  Folks can post questions for help and offer advice in as little as a few minutes. Daily digest come to your email where you can learn about the challenges your peers face which of course prepares you for the future. You can use the group functionality to augment your specialty as well as to promote it. So get an account at LinkedIn, find a few groups that you are interested in and start getting connected.

Facebook started in 2004 and now has over 500M active users. Think about that, more people are on Facebook than live in the United States. You cannot ignore this juggernaut. Even if you don’t understand it today, you have to tomorrow. Facebook has many of the features that LinkedIn has with groups.  Individuals can post information in a group and all members in the group receive real time updates. One challenge with Facebook is the consumer focus. LinkedIn is solely about your career and as such has a business focus. Facebook is primarily about your social life – posting pictures of food you eat, talking about your weekend and sharing your personal life in a public setting. Large companies have started leveraging facebook to promote their brand to their customers. The model is evolving and will be important so start playing around with it if you haven’t.

Finally, Twitter was started in 2006 and has over 100M registered users. In it’s short history it has managed to change the way we gather and share information. Though it may be more known for promoting change in Iran during the pro democracy demonstrations a few years back, it is used to promote businesses more and more. If the taco truck can use Twitter to let folks know when it is at the corner or the baker can use it to let customers know cookies are fresh out of the oven, than accountants can use it to promote their “specialty”.

These tools are new, but the need for professionals to help businesses improve is not. As readers of CPA Technology Advisor you are already a step ahead because you know the importance of being ahead of the market and ahead of your clients.The good new is that these new technologies will help you grow your own firm and help your clients at the same time. Show your mastery of them and nobody will referr to you as “bean counters.”

Thanks for reading! René Lacerte 
Founder and CEO
@rlacerte

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Friday, July 22, 2011 - 11:11

Drowning in paper and unfiled company documents? Paperworkmonster_mobile Bill.com has many great features that allow you to manage your Payables and Receivables online. In addition, we also provide free document management features with either our Payables or Receivables services.  

Many customers use Bill.com to store nearly every piece of paper their office might have previously held in a file cabinet. These include things related to paying bills, like contracts and vendor information, and also company information like prior year tax returns, important communications and other documents. You can organize these using folders (yes folders!) you can set up on the Documents tab. You can also restrict access to your Company documents using our powerful built-in custom role features for all the users of your Bill.com account.  

We continue to improve our document management features, and are currently offering our Receivables customers the ability to share documents and collaborate with their own customers.

Contact us at support@hq.bill.com to learn more!

Add the Paperwork Monster to your Twitter Feed: @Pprworkmonster

 

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Thursday, July 21, 2011 - 13:41

Q. How did you get into your line of work? Rightrail_VIRBO
I excelled in math and loved financial analysis. When in graduate school, the class I loved the most was Entrepreneurship. I couldn’t sleep at night, I would get so excited.  

Q. What have you learned through the school of hard knocks?
That you really need to stay focused and have a plan. Also, the current technology solutions are making it easier to become scalable.

Q. What keeps you up at night?
When we are not on top of a client.

Q. How has Bill.com helped your business chase its dreams.
Bill.com has allowed us to become more scalable by having a turn-key payable and now receivable system. We can feel comfortable that we are on top of our clients entire accounting process, and we can do this when we are on the road.

 

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Download a complete PDF of these 4 questions

Note: 4 Questions is a new feature on the Bill.com blog where we will ask the same 4 questions of a different Bill.com customer. Given the tremendous passion and can-do attitude of small and mid-sized businesses, we believe these same four questions will result not in repeat answers, but in interesting insight into many different journeys. Want to be profiled? Tweet us at @billcom and let us know!

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 - 08:35

It’s summer time and with that comes the warm long evenings where we relax and let our minds drift to think about what we have accomplished so far this year and what we have left to accomplish. Some make New Year’s resolutions; I like to take the time to reflect mid-year on what might be coming in the future. So here are my top 8 predictions:

1. People truly start spending - after all, we are Americans and we like to spend. The savings rate has moved in the right direction, but I think there is some pent up desire to spend. As that happens, business will improve, which means businesses will need help. Given the financial crises we have just been through, small business owners will turn to their accountants for guidance and financial work. So get prepared to take on more business, leveraging technology and your network.

2. Businesses and accountants find their voice in the social media fray and find it is more fun to be social. Social media is a great way for accountants to stay connected to their network and to see what their clients are up to. Imagine how comfortable your clients will be when you show that you care because you’re up to speed on what’s going on with them and their business courtesy of Facebook.

3. More accountants will adopt SaaS/Cloud solutions as they see their peers wearing flip flops and doing work from a Starbucks with their dog at their feet. Don’t you ever wonder why Starbucks is so full and who the lucky folks are that don’t have to go into the office? Stop wondering, and start living your life from wherever you want.

4. Large companies that have failed to see that the Internet is about servicing customers better will lose another year to the startups that get it. The most powerful thing about the Internet is the increase in “connectivity” that lets you know what your customers are doing and what they need from you. While this applies mostly to large companies, accountants that use the Internet will have an advantage (complete access to client data while controlling client access is just one example).

5. Small companies that think the Internet is about being free will go away or consolidate. There is no such thing as a free lunch, so if it’s free watch out. Either the business model is advertising (which I personally have had enough of) or they don’t have one.

6. Giants win their second World Series thanks to great accounting. Seriously, how else can you explain the great talent at less than half the price of the Yankees?

7. Collaboration between young and old accountants creates a new breed of firm — the hip technology guy backed by tons of experience. As the boomers begin to think of retirement, they will bring in young technology savvy folks to transition their firms. As they do that, they’ll find they can work less, do what they want and still make money.

8. Apple unveils a new gizmo just for accountants. Seriously, they already have. Check out the iPad with any SaaS service. No more lugging a heavy leather briefcase full of regulations and client workpapers. Save your back today, and try it out.

Keep enjoying your summer and if you have any opinions on my top 8 let me know - I always love hearing from you. Thanks for reading! Rene'  @rlacerte

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 07:16

Bill.com, the leader in integrated bill payment, online invoicing and Intuit_its_onUS2 cash management solutions has added seamless synchronization with QuickBooks Online. QuickBooks Online customers can now view and send invoices online, route bills for approval, and pay them online through Bill.com, but that is not all! Bill.com users also experience free unlimited document storage and customer support - which comes standard with all Bill.com accounts.

No More Double Entry! All bill, invoice and payment activity is matched accurately in QuickBooks Online eliminating the need to manage multiple systems or do double entry.

Take advantage of the Intuit Workplace limited time, special promotion to use Bill.com and have Bill.com pay your phone bills for the next 3 months* (up to $75*). Thousands of businesses are already using Bill.com to save over 50% of the time and cost it takes to pay bills. And now the savings is even greater!

With the integration, it’s easy to get started instantly. Now you can download all open invoices from QuickBooks Online directly into Bill.com - along with vendor lists and chart of accounts. You can begin paying bills instantly and avoid the time and costs of starting a new system.

Bill.com gives you complete control over your finances and gives you peace of mind to enjoy why you’re in business in the first place. Mac Frampton, performer, part owner and treasurer of Alkahest Artists & Attractions sums it up: ”It was hard to pay our artists and booking agents while I was on the road, now with Bill.com I can pay everyone by direct deposit, our artists are elated and I can go on the road myself and not have to worry about their payments.”

Check out Bill.com with QuickBooks Online in Intuit App Center.

Read the Alkahest Artists Case Study here

* Please visit the Intuit Website for more details on the terms of this program. Please note that the "It's on Us" Program runs until the 6th of August 2011.

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Friday, July 15, 2011 - 09:40

Until last year, Zong, a California company that facilitates mobile payments for online game players, used no technology at all to pay its own bills. Rightrail_zong_mobile2

"Our customers use their cell phone numbers to purchase virtual goods,” said Bing Cheng, Zong's accountant. “But before I arrived, Zong’s CEO paid the bills by hand-writing checks and stuffing them into envelopes. Fortunately, Zong uses QuickBooks and I had used QuickBooks' integration with Bill.com at a previous employer. It took me less than an hour to move our accounts payable onto Bill.com's electronic payment system – really it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, even after using Bill.com before."

Zong makes the process of paying for virtual goods online four times faster than using a credit card. If a social gamer playing FarmVille on Facebook, for example, wants to till his strawberry and eggplant fields more quickly, he can order a virtual tractor for $3.30 and pay for it by entering his cell phone number on the site. Zong immediately sends back electronic message, and our farmer is off and plowing.

How big is mobile gaming payment? According to Zong founder David Marcus, 250 cell phone carriers around the world allow their billions of mobile subscribers to charge an extra $20 to $100 to their monthly phone bills to pay for virtual items sold by online game developers. Because Zong lets gamers bypass typing in lengthy credit card information to buy Facebook credits, players are more likely to spend and complete their transactions quickly.

But back at Zong's new world headquarters in Menlo Park, paying the company's bills was a drag. Zong was spun off from a Swiss parent company in 2010 and was essentially in start-up mode with only 35 employees when Cheng arrived. "I would introduce any small company that does accounts payable to Bill.com. Storage space is at such a premium. As soon as I saw how much paper was being used, from invoices to check stock to printing supplies, you really see the savings,” said Cheng. “Rather than shuffle paper bills, employees had been charging a lot of recurring items to the company credit card. Obviously, that made their yearly audit a pain, because someone had to sort through every credit card statement."

After integrating Bill.com's online payment capabilities with Zong's QuickBooks, Cheng limited credit card charges to appropriate categories, like travel, and now and pays about 50 bills a month electronically. "Some vendors are sending us their bills by e-mail," Cheng says, "and we scan in the others. Since Bill.com allows us to add documentation, we can instantly view a bill and all of the information about its status when we need it." Cheng also uses Bill.com's attachment feature to link each vendor's Tax Identification number with their invoices, in case he needs to file 1099 forms for them at the end of the year.

As with most start-ups, CEO Marcus "likes to know what money is going out the door," Cheng said. Before Bill.com, that meant waiting for Marcus to approve paper invoices for payment. Now that all bills are on the Internet, "I can shoot him an e-mail," Cheng said, "and he'll send back his approvals. Often, I don't know if he's in California or abroad, at an international trade show." Cheng said that having Zong's accounts payable in the cloud means that he can check on payments from anywhere as well, via his iPhone or iPad. "It's definitely easier than pulling out and rebooting my laptop," he said. “And now Marcus doesn’t have to come back from vacation or a business trip to find a desk piled with bills to manage. Bill.com has helped us time our payments to maximize cashflow so precisely – our CEO has peace of mind that our bills are not only being paid on time, but we’re managing our cash wisely.”

Saving time for Zong's customers means they can reap their virtual crops or kill their virtual enemies more quickly. Saving time for Zong's accountant means even more in the real world. "Using Bill.com means I no longer have to do repetitive accounts payable tasks and have an extra 10 hours a month to do something else," Cheng said.

Zong's efficiency has already paid off in a big way. In July, online shopping giant eBay offered to pay $240 million for the mobile payment company.

Download the complete case study here.

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Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 09:23

Before there was online bill pay, online statementsMobile_go1 and mobile banking there was only paper. Paper checks. Paper stamps. Paper Envelopes. The way the silent generation, baby boomers and even Gen X paid bills.

Check writing was the only game-in-town for these generations, but now more than 77% of these folks are active with Mobile computing. Couple that with the cost of postage and checks constantly rising, the check writing process thankfully is going down the road less traveled. Although, some from these generations continue to cling to the familiar and mundane process of check writing, it is expected that the check will die a quiet death.

Whether some are afraid of the “big bad Internet”, fraud or just don’t know how to use an online bill pay service, we are here to share with you that there are more convenient and less expensive ways to pay bills.

Here are some pros of online bill pay:

As a Generation Y’er, there was a short period where I used checks, but now I use my Bill.com account.  I love the convenience of paying my bills from anywhere that has Internet and even from my mobile phone.  When I use my Bill.com account, I don’t have to hand out my account number, my personal information or my signature.  And best of all I don’t have to buy stamps or checks!

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Monday, July 11, 2011 - 10:11

An Atlanta accounting firm has changed its image, from a traditional paper based accounting firm to leveraging cloud based technology, allowing their clients to move to a streamlined 21st century technology based accounting firm, by using Bill.com for their clients.BrucePhillips

After years of success at Big Four firms, CPAs Bill Harshman and Bruce Phillips launched their own firm, Harshman Phillips & Company, LLC, in 1992, with specialties in, real estate and construction, restaurants, technology, and professional services. Phillips, who had once served as the CFO of a technology company, convinced his partners in 2010 to move clients to the cloud, by offering a full service online accounting solution.

Phillips sought out "best of breed" online accounting platforms at technology conferences, where he met with vendors, including Logo-harshmanBill.com’s  CEO René Lacerte. “When Bill.com learned that many of our clients use Sage Peachtree, they asked us join their beta program for the accounting package. As part of the beta program we were in constant touch with Bill.com development and support teams and were excited to provide them with feedback specific to the Sage integration,” Phillips added, “Since we already loved using Bill.com with our QuickBooks clients. We are very pleased with the outcome of the Peachtree sync that is now available to the general public, the Peachtree and Bill.com programs really work seamlessly together."

One of Harshman Phillips early client adopters is a local real estate development and management company. "Once we became their outsourced accounting and administrative partner," said Phillips, "we convinced them to close their physical office space and have everyone work remotely. Now we pay all their bills using the Bill.com. They're more efficient and they're saving over $100,000 a year in office and personnel expenses and are an incredibly happy client." We also found that doing year-end audits and tax returns using Bill.com is super efficient. Bill.com keeps a complete trail of activities including time stamps and process dates, which allows us to open and close the annual audits in record breaking time – we became Accountant Super Heroes to our clients”.

Phillips himself is a convert. "I manage all the bills for our firm and our clients companies, and I am now paying roughly 50 to 75 bills a month for Harshman Phillips with Bill.com and it takes me less than 15 minutes. I even paid last month's bills from my iPad while on an airplane, trying from Las Vegas to Atlanta – you really can’t beat that for efficiency" he said. Bill_mobile

Once the firm's tech focus gained momentum, Phillips showed other clients how easy Bill.com is with a simple demonstration on his laptop or iPad. "We had 23 companies using our new solution within the first five months," he said. “Our initial goal was to have 50 clients using Bill.com in two years. Now it looks like we’ll hit that goal in roughly 12 months.”

Harshman Phillips is excited to move their clients currently using Sage Peachtree accounting software onto Bill.com. "We have a large number of clients on Peachtree," said Phillips, "and frankly, I think we’re going to have more work than we know what to do with, but that is a wonderful problem to have, especially in this economy."

In the meantime, Phillips is taking their tech-savvy firm national. “Now we can serve clients anywhere since accounting system is in the cloud” he said. "Now that businesses expect to be mobile, we know there are a lot of companies that want to find a way to get rid of sending paper bills around for approvals and easily access their documents and invoices online. At Harshman Phillips, we have mastered the use of cloud based technology and are happy to offer clients a turnkey solution using Bill.com."

Download the complete case study here

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Saturday, July 9, 2011 - 13:18

I am sitting in the airport at half past too-early-in-the-morning-and-I-need-more-coffee. Kathleen
Why? I am traveling to my youngest sister's wedding, where I should not be ostensibly working -- I have left my computer behind.

That means I am typing this blog post with my thumbs on my Mobile, which isn't as tortuous as you might imagine. Because, rather than just being the holder of the hundreds of text messages my son and my others send me, it's a mini-computer, an office in the palm of my hand.  

Any service company that doesn't "understand this" likely won't get my business.
I need to be able to operate from anywhere, anytime -- especially for mission critical tasks. So once I am done doing my bit of blogging, my next task is to pay my bills -- all on my Mobile and using Bill.com.  Another seamingly odious task, now simplified and checked off my virtual to do list, all from the airport, all on my Mobile and all easliy completed with Bill.com -- nothing like scaling the heights of maximum productivity over my first cup of coffee while waiting for the plane. 

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Friday, July 8, 2011 - 09:19

Musicians all over the country are humming "We're in the Money," thanks to an Internet banking program by Bill.com that pays them the moment they finish a performance. Rightrail_QBOmac copy

Pianist Mac Frampton, of Atlanta, understands the importance of prompt payments to performers because he's played at least 4,000 concerts since launching his career in 1972. "Artists have a lot of overhead," Frampton said. "We have to pay our side men - the men and women who accompany us on drums, bass and other instruments - and pay for the plane tickets that take us to the venues and the hotels we stay in while performing."

A few years ago, Frampton took on a second position, as a part owner and treasurer of Alkahest Artists & Attractions, the Chattanooga, Tennessee company that had booked his gigs for decades. Although he's always loved working with finances, Frampton realized that his dual positions were not always in harmony. "It was hard to pay our other artists and booking agents while I was on the road myself," he said.

Frampton set up an escrow account, to hold deposits for concerts that are often booked a year or more in advance, and an operating account, to pay Alkahest musicians and agents through QuickBooks.

The day of each concert, he transferred escrow monies into the operating account and ordered his bank to mail e-checks to the performers. "But we have several artists with more than one home," he said, "and one group that travels by bus and spends most of the year on the road. I'd make sure checks went out the day of the concert, but sometimes they went to the wrong address."

Early this year, Frampton discovered Bill.com's integration with QuickBooks that works via the Internet, putting all transactions online. "This means I can pay everyone by direct deposit," Frampton said. "Our artists are elated and I can go on the road myself and not have to worry about their payments."

For Frampton, that road is often the high seas. About twenty percent of his work is on cruise ships that take passengers through the Panama Canal, around the Mediterranean or along the coast of South America. Because Bill.com operates in the cloud, Frampton can use the ships' Internet connections for his laptop "and do payroll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," he said.

Another Bill.com feature allows Frampton to add attachments to each account. Every time a new contract comes in to Alkahest, he turns it into a PDF file and uploads it into his laptop. "That way, I can bill the university, community arts council or other group that arranged the performance according to the contract terms," he said. The Bill.com/QuickBooks integration also helps him compute the commissions that Alkahest owes independent agents who bring bookings to the entertainment firm and send payments directly into their accounts.

Alkahest, founded in 1896, is the nation's oldest lecture, concert and theatrical booking management company. Early clients included Winston Churchill, Will Rogers and Enrico Caruso. Today the firm represents about 40 artists that typically perform a single concert per venue, for everyone from college students to retirees. Frampton, who is classically trained, performs a repertoire from his own arrangements that include James Bond and Disney medleys, classic favorites and movie themes, with a trio or a six-piece musical group, all of whom he can now pay by check as soon as they take their final bows.

"In the old days," Frampton said, "I'd sometimes have to tell my side men not to cash their checks for a few days, to make sure I had money to cover them. With Bill.com, any time they cash their checks, the money's there."

Download the PDF of the CaseStudy here

 

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