Since getting third place in the Intuit Firm of the Future contest last year, we have been getting a lot of attention. Other accounting practices seem to think that we must have some fancy secret or that we must run ourselves ragged keeping up with all the tech. I’m going to share the secret with you right now, and I think it’s going to surprise you: It’s not that hard to be tech savvy.
Find your moment.
The event that changed everything for me was Scaling New Heights 2015 in New Orleans. I felt like the young novice from the tiny firm in the small town compared to everyone else’s experience. I was a sponge, watching what everyone else was doing. There were so many amazing, tech savvy app partners to learn about. Everyone was texting and Tweeting. Meanwhile, I was sitting there at my very first conference locked away in the stone age because of my tech.
In Summer of 2015, I did not yet have a smart phone.
That’s right. That’s the big secret. I was without a doubt the LEAST tech savvy person at the conference.
I was still using my prepad flip phone, and I was so proud of it. Just look at how much money I was saving! I watched some of my friends pay $100 a month for their plans, and meanwhile I was paying $100 a year. It was suiting me fine. After all, I spent almost all of my time at my office in front of my computer. Having that fancy toy was just a waste if I didn’t really need it.
Then I got to Scaling New Heights, and I realized how necessary it was. I had never traveled for business before. New Orleans and the conference were awesome, and I was hooked! I had no idea how much I was missing by not getting to network with industry professionals outside of my area. However, seeing how fluidly all my tech savvy colleagues communicated using their mobile devices, I realized that I was at a severe handicap if I didn’t upgrade soon. Without the right tools at my disposal, I felt like I might as well have been attending the conference with a broken leg.
From Inept to Tech Savvy
In the weeks that followed Scaling New Heights, we made a lot of changes at Polymath very fast. We started implementing fixed and value priced packages for our clients. In under a month, we learned about and implemented about a dozen new app relationships. We started actually using the Twitter account that had been used only to have a basic presence in the past. It was high time for us to get deeper into the future focused conversations with our clients that we really enjoyed, and we made time to have those conversations with the clients that wanted them. Most important, I decided to take the leap I had been thinking about for years, and began the process for making Polymath an employee-owned company.
My team thought I was crazy at first, but they supported the rapid changes and charged ahead. Being a small firm, we had the advantage of being able to implement changes quickly. We could pivot on a dime if something wasn’t going right. We learned fast, and we saw immediate results. Tech Savvy was not as far away as I had thought.
Firm of the Future
In early July, Intuit announced the Firm of the Future video contest. I looked at the criteria, and I realized that we qualified… as of just a couple weeks prior.
To be fair, we did have several of the qualifications in place long ago. Most of our clients were already on QuickBooks Online. We did already have social media, though we were not using it as much or as well as we could. What we really had going for us was our YouTube channel, Ask A Bookkeeper. That was the piece that really differentiated us. Our goal was to create a platform where we could teach important small business concepts in a language that business owners would find fun and approachable: the language of puppets. In this way, we didn’t have to be better because we were different.
It also gave us a leg up in that we were already making videos. As a matter of fact, we already had a shoot scheduled with our videographer for the puppet show. We simply pivoted the plan for that day, and shot the Firm of the Future video instead.
With all of the changes we had been implementing, there was one that just kept falling by the wayside. When we submitted our Firm of the Future contest video submission, I still did not yet have a smart phone. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of the criteria for the contest.
I got my very first smart phone on August 1st, 2015. Tech savvy, here I come.
A Winning Hand
It’s always great when we get some sort of immediate feedback that we are making the right decisions. We make that choice, and right away it’s like the universe starts paving a path in front of you to walk on. I think Oprah covered that very well in her keynote at QuickBooks Connect last year when she talked about listening to the whispers.
I was shocked on August 26th when I received the notice that we were selected as a winner of the contest. Despite getting emails about two different prizes, both the complimentary pass to QuickBooks Connect and the $2500 tech grant, it didn’t occur to me right away that we had been chosen as one of the top three. I had seen some of the other videos from businesses that were much more experienced, larger, and more profitable than ours. I didn’t see our little firm as being something that people would want to aspire to. The differences that were setting us apart were that we were innovative and we were having a lot of fun. Suddenly, everyone thought we were one of the most tech savvy firms in the country.
The Next Steps
Everything we said in the video was 100% true. People just assumed that it had always been that way for us, but a lot of the “future” in our firm was a very recent development. So recent, in fact, that it felt like the paint wasn’t even dry.
When Intuit asked me to attend SleeterCon 2015 to take part in a fireside chat with Jim McGinnis and the other two Top 3 winners, there was one message that I really wanted to share: If I can do this, you can too.
We are getting excited for the unveiling of the 2016 Firm of the Future winner at QuickBooks Connect 2016, and I want to share that same message again with you. Take a look at these wonderful people and what they are doing. Look at their lives, their families, and their routines. We are all people, just like you. It can be all to easy at times to compare our insides to someone else’s outsides. We make assumptions about our perceived situations. Change doesn’t have to be hard. If there is something you want, go for it.
Keep this story in mind next time you think you’re not very tech savvy. It was only a handful of choices over a matter of weeks that brought me and Polymath from being a firm of the flip phone to a Firm of the Future.