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Election Results and the Pro-Advisor Community

November 20, 2012 | By | 8 Replies More

The election results are a perfect starting point to the premise of my article – things and people have changed, and we need to watch and listen carefully to the effects of these changes as they relate to our profession, and businesses.

I will do my best to keep out of the political fray, and stick to certain facts and poll numbers that have helped me form my questions and theories.

I have been wrestling with the effects of three things:

  1. The Pro Advisor Community
  2. Cloud computing
  3. The opinion and makeup of our electorate.

The Pro-Advisor Community

I was happy to see a number of new faces at the Sleeter Group this year, as it means that he is growing and reaching out to new generations. As a young business entrepreneur, Doug certainly gets the fact that we must constantly change to maintain both freshness, and profitability.

Aside from seeing Charlie Russell ‘arrrrghgh’ in his pirate outfit, the most interesting piece of the conference was the polling session that Jill Ward and Dan Warnekoff hosted. The one piece of data that caught my eye was the disparity in the number of people who are trending online vs. the number of pro advisors who worked with those people. And trust me, it is the one item that Intuit is also wrestling with.

Jill and I have been friends for many years, and we both look forward to getting together to discuss both personal lives and business trends in the business community. I gave her four points:

  1. For years, the pro advisor community has invested in the Intuit desktop products – and have grown up with the population that uses them. For many of us who are within say 10 years of retirement or less, pushing us to re-invest in a new direction may not be the best investment.
  2. For those who still don’t like the online QuickBooks, it is because of the reference point – we have QuickBooks and online is not it. For new people who have never dealt with the desktop Quickbooks that reference is not there.
  3. The younger gadget, Facebook, anytime convenience, crowd will probably not cozy up to those of us who think Facebook is something we do at the spa.
  4. The nature of the entrepreneur is changing – no walls, no traditional office. Short term mobility and convenience are the prominent strategy.

From these 4 points I gave her one takeaway: Intuit needs to take the responsibility of finding that next generation of pro advisors who are comfortable in that generation’s space. Some of us will participate out of necessity, some out of willingness, but it isn’t necessary to succeed for those who can ride out the comfort space until retirement.

Looking at poll results from the election it was clear that the Obama team successfully messaged the Latino community and younger voters – even though right leaning pundits didn’t think that was possible. Just as the Republican Party won’t be able to count on just older white voters to win, Intuit cannot rely on just trying a different message on people with whom they have done business for so many years. They need new blood.

Cloud Computing

I know I have pontificated about the number of people being brought into the cloud computing era kicking and screaming, but I also don’t want to be accused of class warfare. Again, many of us have grown up with QuickBooks on the desktop, but there is a new generation that doesn’t NEED a desktop.

Let’s look at the exit polls by CBS which showed that 65% people in larger cities thought that they wanted more government, yet the small cities and burbs were exactly reversed. I have my own opinion on this subject, but my point is, there is more than one way to arrive at the end result. Somehow we have to arrive at a solution where both sides are ameliorated – because there is an even split on the ideal. So yes, I feel strongly about providing continued support for desktop while bringing in another online generation – and creating options for us older folks – so that all are served.

(As business owners, there is one other CBS poll statistic that you should be very aware of: 55% of voters believe that the economic system favors the wealthy; you are going to have your own class warfare to deal with; not just Chuck and cloud computing.)

Over time new computing options will evolve, just as the number of minorities in this country will evolve. The house needs to be complete – until there is no need for a particular option. Yes, the typewriter comes to mind – but yet, there are still a few old literary codgers who still use it instead of a computer. No harm done, that is for sure.

The New Entrepreneur

The demographics of the electorate, and the use of new tools (The Republicans need to hire Michelle Long for their social usage) have also helped me frame a view that not only is the makeup of average user changing, but so too is the entrepreneur. We talked years ago about the demise of the ‘janitor to CEO’, and we have moved way beyond that. I was engaged in a conversation with one of Jill’s Staff, and I asked this gentleman, what was the one thing that surprised him with regard to how his daughter communicates as opposed to how he grew up. I loved his answer: “When she was 9, it was e-mail; when she was 14 it was texting; Now she is 18, and she answers everybody with a u-tube.” Generations used to be several decades – no longer. Life experiences for the newer generations move much quicker and – IMHO – a shorter concentration and attention span. Not ADD, but a different manner in experiencing life.

Starting a business, used to mean starting with an idea, then growing that idea slowly, and maybe adding employees, branches over a period of time. The main goal was to establish something that would last. When reading Steve Job’s biography, I was struck by his comment that ‘I wanted to build something that lasts beyond me’. But currently that is not true for many trying to get a start in the application development world. In today’s culture, it is much easier to create something – by yourself, and with no office – with the intention of selling it, and then going to do something else. The philosophy and strategy is different. Is this true for everybody? No, but the percentage of entrepreneurs that I interact with are closer to the ‘create and sell’ model. They are willing to bring in venture capitalists with the intention of getting out – something not true even a dozen years ago.

So what do we do? Well, we become virtual coaches with short and quick pieces of advice – and as they grow we give them advice on what tools they can use that will give them what they want – on a self-serve basis. For many of us, who have provided the ‘end to end’ service, there is an incredible burden to know all kinds of software application options, integration ideals, etc etc.; or being a traditional VAR who sells specific software. I believe that both of these will diminish over time. There are many options, but the real opportunity is to try and be generally knowledgeable – and not have to depend on just selling one specific piece of software. I truly believe that this type of approach will work with the younger entrepreneur.

Then again, the ROI for this sort of thing may not be in your best interest – or something you have an affinity to do. I can promise that there will be plenty of need for the traditional desktop applications and integration – but just know that there will be a slow decline over a period of time. This country is changing – and we need to recognize it.

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Category: Chuck's Business Performance and Technology Corner, Expert's Corner, Technology/Trends

About the Author ()

Chuck Vigeant is the Managing Partner of CLEARIFY, LP and is known as the “grandfather” of Crystal Reports and Business Intelligence for QuickBooks. He is the principal architect behind QQube™, the ground-breaking data warehouse technology for QuickBooks, and his company is the largest provider of Business Analytics and custom management reporting systems for a variety of small business products. There is one common thread from Chuck’s days as a controller in the late ’70s, through his three decades as an accounting technology specialist, through his stint as a data analyst and schema architect for Intuit – and, yes, even as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor: his passion to make it easier to grab data from everyday software applications and formulate it into usable information from which people can make more educated decisions. He has received awards from the Austin Entrepreneur’s Association; was a keynote speaker at the National Association for Professional Saleswomen; taught business curriculums at local community colleges; and spoken at dozens of Intuit functions, CPA chapters, and various technology conferences. He now limits his speaking to special engagements. Chuck is a member emeritus of the prestigious Intuit Accountant and Advisor Council, holds a bachelor’s degree in business and public administration from the University of Hartford and a Master of Education from the University of North Texas.

Comments (8)

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  1. William "Bill" Murphy says:

    “Verrry In…teresting” as Arte Johnson would have said it on the old Rowan and Martin ‘Laugh-in’.

    Murph

  2. Michele Allen says:

    I can’t imagine that desktop software and integration as we know it will exist in 10 or even 5 years. I’d be surprised if “Cloud Computing” will be recognizable in a decade. I’ve taken my ProAdvisor business through three major changes (pre-internet, internet connectivity, remote access) in 16 years. At 48, I’ve got 20+ years until I retire. I’m diving into the Cloud now and I see it as a tool for reviving my business to pre-recession vigor…and beyond.

    • Michele-Ditto! I have been a Sage partner for about the same and done a little bit of QuickBooks Enterprise. I agree that to compete you have to dive into the cloud options. It is an interesting and exciting time!

  3. Michele Riffe says:

    1) Intuit needs to get their house in order before they can expect we will willing navigate “to the cloud”. QBO needs to be a better product than it is. Minimally, it needs to be as robust as the desktop solution. Additionally, they need to get their internal operations up to speed and their database cleaned up. Lastly, Intuit servers. Enough said.
    2) Regardless of the push for ProAdvisors to migrate “to the cloud” you need to understand that even if “we” do, it doesn’t mean our clients will, or, want to. If the department of Revenue in South Carolina can be hacked, it doesn’t emote a lot of confidence that “Intuit” can’t, or won’t be. You’ll need our clients to get old, also, before you can transition them. They want their “stuff” secure, and in their control. Actually, so do I. I don’t like being at the mercy of a) Intuit, b) my web connection c) an IT guy.
    The more “automated” I become, as well as my Clients, the more “issues” I have to resolve that aren’t related to conducting business. Downtime, errors, links that are broken and don’t connect, dead-spots, response time, downloads that don’t download, installs that won’t install, updates that cause corruption, etc, etc, etc. “New” doesn’t automatically mean better. We can head that direction, but don’t expect it to be “embraced”.

  4. Linda Logan says:

    QuickBooks Online is a horrid product. I told a client this fall that we could have cleaned up their file in a tenth of the time (and at a tenth of the cost) if they had had regular QuickBooks. I have not and will not recommend or even consider QBO (and I am a huge QB fan having used it since it first came out). We are recommending and setting up our clients on the cloud with regular desktop QuickBooks. We use Qutera as our hosting service. It’s less expensive than QBO, provides the advantages of online access,is the QB program we know and love, and enables access from Macs or PC’s, also eliminating the need for QB for the MAC, another inadequate and poorly designed program. The cloud is the next step. It’s already in motion. I don’t know what will happen next. Technology has been quite an adventure. I took a programming class in college (1966-1970). We typed our programs on punch cards and never saw the computer which was a huge machine in a cooled backroom. 10 years later (1980)when I was working at Control Data Corporation, IBM and Control Data introduced the first PC’s. My project resulting in Control Data producing one of the first flowcharting software applications. 5 years later (1985)when I left Control Data to become a partner in a management consulting company, I paid a programmer to customize a PC spreadsheet application to handle accounting data entry and produce financial reports automatically, a complete automated, accounting system. It worked great but was far more expensive than QB that came out 5 years later (1990 or so). I enjoy the technology and look forward to what we’ll all create in the future. And yes, we have new problems to solve unrelated to accounting or QB. My company’s solution has been to collaborate with IT professionals, particularly now as our company has expanded from being ProAdvisors to also becoming an Intuit Premier Reseller. This is getting us into the more complex QB programs, Enterprise Solutions, Advanced Inventory, Field Service Management, POS. These programs almost always require networking, multiple users, remote access, electronic processing of various transactions, so they will keep us learning for years to come. And sometimes, I too get exhausted that we have something new to learn again, just when I’ve finally mastered the latest round of new and redesigned products. It would be nice not to feel like I’m on the ever-accelerating treadmill of technology. But, welcome to the 21st Century!

  5. Danny Allday says:

    Like many, I am an oldie too. I’ve seen it all before. If in early 1980s, someone told me that MS-DOS would be going away, I would have said that I would stick with DOS because I prefered that environment. Peachtree for DOS, was widely liked and accepted by many who hated the Windows versions. The problem is that people cannot buy computers with MS-DOS anymore, and Peachtree for DOS is no longer being developed or sold. Same goes for may other DOS-based programs (Real Word, DacEasy, etc.). As users, we did not like it, but we all had no choice but to adapt to Windows versions eventually.

    Eventually, I also learned to like my Windows 1,2, 3, 98,2000, my Windows XP, etc., etc. The issue is, I did not have any choice in staying with these old releases. I used to like my pre-PC punch cards, the 10″ floppy disks, then the 5.25″ floppy, then the 3.5″ disks, then the CD, then the DVDs. I learned to love them all. BUT, now I love being able to download software for my installations.

    As you know, Microsoft is promoting (really pushing) cloud-based computing (Office 365, Sharepoint). At some point in time, the possibility exists that a vast majority of people, especially the new generations, will be in favor of cloud computing. This trending could, and in my opinion probably will, move us from a Windows desktop operating system, to cloud-based platorms. It’s simply less expensive to produce, sell and support by Microsoft. If this happens, and I think it eventually will, Windows as we know it goes away.

    Looking into the future, I see more development by Intuit on the clould-based version of QuickBooks. As we know, there are fewer and fewer really good product enhancements of the desktop version. QBO edition serves good purpose for some of my clients (with simple needs) now.

    Just like QB Desktop cannot be the best software for everone, QBO cannot be the right software either. Imagine if QuickBooks Online had the features an functionality like the desktop (or NetSuite). Wouldn’t many more people be using it!

    One thing is for sure, change is inevitable and we are not dictating it. It happens whether we like it or not. If we want to stay in the game, we have to adapt. We can voice our dislikes, but unfortunately, we have to eat the food put on our plates. What happens when Intuit decides to stop develping the desktop version? What happens when Windows Desktop goes away? What do we do then… retire? Not me. I am not ready yet.

  6. Stacey Byrne says:

    Chuck, I just love reading your blogs! Thanks for your good work.

    As far as the Pro Advisor community embracing QBO, this is something I have scratched my over for several years. Intuit has been offering QBO for 8-10 years and did not decide to ‘legitimize’ it until this year by offering a QBO Certification. Similar to how people can specialize in QB for Mac, Enterprise or POS, I believe MANY MANY more PA’s would have been more willing to embrace QBO if Intuit would have provided training before now!

    I agree that existing QB users are not the prime target for QBO. I will not be recommending current QB Desktop clients convert to QBO. There are just too many major differences in functionality. No ability to calculate finance charges, no price levels, only one inventory item type and I still can’t believe that you can’t push online bill payments from QBO to the bank. What good is a cloud software that doesn’t integrate with online banking?? While it is possible to get add-ons to fix various pieces of the puzzle, that just makes things more confusing for the client and they have to pay for the extra pieces one by one. Better to target existing QBO users or go after new clients in that space that don’t have the habits from using QB desktop.

    In my opinion, Intuit did not become very ‘Gung-Ho’ about their own online product until Xero hit the scene. Intuit’s market share in the Online space will not be what they’ve experienced with desktop products and as the desktop goes away, that could spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E for Intuit.

    I’ve heeded Doug’s advice to find other baskets to put my eggs into (like Xero, Freshbooks, Wave, Sage). At least if the bottom falls out of one basket, all won’t be lost!

    Since I have 20+ years before retiring, the cloud is something I have to embrace, whether I like it or not. I’m happy to be part of the Sleeter Group because I feel it gives me an advantage knowing how to best handle the inevitable changes that are coming to the profession.

    And yes I DO still have a typewriter that gets some occasional use, and a client that uses a safeguard system to hand write checks!

  7. There is a difference between Cloud Computing and QBO. I am a ProAdvisor that uses all versions of QB Desktop because QBO typically doesn’t have the features that my clients are requiring.

    Most of these clients are using QB Desktop on the Cloud. We have an Cloud hosting company that installs the desktop version of the software on a dedicated server for each client. The client and I can then access the company file through a remote desktop session. It works as quickly and efficiently (sometimes more) as if you were working from your own local desktop.

    QBO, on the other hand, is really an SAS (Software as a Service) and doesn’t represent all Cloud computing. So, I urge you not to throw the baby out with the bath water (you can tell I’ve been around for awhile :-) and consider the many benefits of the Cloud when it comes to QB desktop.

    I think that Intuit is doing a disservice by marketing QBO as their Cloud solution.

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