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:
- The Pro Advisor Community
- Cloud computing
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.