Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2015 Firm of the Future finalists. In this new article, we feature Kathy McQuiggan of Beach Cities Accounting. Be sure to scroll down to see her video.
Elizabeth Joyce: Tell us about your firm and your clients.
Kathy McQuiggan: Beach Cities Accounting is located in Manhattan Beach, CA. We have six team members, including myself. Our niche is professional service firms, so our primary targets are lawyers, doctors, orthodontists, dentists, and consultants. In terms of our client size, 70 percent of our businesses are between million and million in revenue.
EJ: How does your firm embody a Firm of the Future?
KM: From day one, we heard that accounting firms should use the cloud, so as soon as I started my firm, we started using QuickBooks® Desktop, hosted in the cloud. Shortly thereafter, we started using QuickBooks Online and integrating third party apps. We’ve always striven to remain current in the technology used in our practice and the industry, as we know that’s needed to stay competitive and relevant in this profession.
EJ: We understand you still have clients on QuickBooks Desktop. What’s the breakdown like between desktop and online? What benefits do you and your clients get from QuickBooks Online?
KM: Revenue-wise, my larger clients are still on desktop. My smaller clients are the ones moving to QuickBooks Online, and the majority of my new clients start on QuickBooks Online as well.
My clients love the free QuickBooks Online 1-800 number for customer support. Another large benefit is that I can see, at a glance, if my clients are keeping their QuickBooks Online account up to date. It’s real time, so my clients always know their up-to-date balances if they are keeping their records current.
EJ: When you transition a client to QuickBooks Online, how does the process go?
KM: The process is relatively easy. Before we start, we evaluate the client to ensure they are a good fit for QuickBooks Online. After the evaluation, we perform some file management to improve the process outcome and ease of conversion. The next step is to use the built-in feature to convert QuickBooks Desktop files to QuickBooks Online with the push of a button. After everything is converted, we confirm that the desktop financials agree to the QuickBooks Online financials, and we start training the employees and owner to use their new system.
EJ: How do you find the best apps to use for yourself and your clients?
KM: Finding the best apps is all about education, as technology changes so quickly. Recently, I went to QuickBooks Connect and Scaling New Heights, and I also belong to the Sleeter and Woodard Groups – all to stay current on the latest news, trends and technology.
EJ: What are you favorite apps to use with QuickBooks Online?
KM: The apps I use with QuickBooks Online are like magic. I use Bill.com, SmartVault, TSheets, Transaction Pro Importer, Expensify, Method:CRM and many others. Numbers appear that used to take hours to calculate using spreadsheets. Bills are paid at a tap of a button. Payroll hours are automatically calculated. The apps save time, sync seamlessly with QuickBooks Online and safeguard our clients’ assets.
EJ: What advice do you have for people that are hesitant to move to the cloud?
KM: This sounds like a cliché, but a journey starts with a single step. The cloud is the way of the future. Just think, years ago, we did not use online banking. Now, if you want to know anything about your bank account, you just log onto your bank. It’s the same way with accounting. Being in the cloud gives you real-time access to data and provides you access to easily see a forecast – if you are using a forecasting app, your accounting is no longer something that’s in the rear view mirror. Ask an expert to explain how wonderful being in the clouds can be!
EJ: Since you have international clients, how do you find new ways to collaborate with them?
KM: The great thing about technology today is that it doesn’t matter where your clients are located. They could be in downtown Los Angeles or Australia, and you can still communicate via Webex, Go To Meeting or Zoom.us.
EJ: How do you find new clients, or how do they find you?
KM: I receive a lot of referrals from current clients, through the QuickBooks Find-a-ProAdvisor website and from networking. When I started my firm, if I didn’t have enough clients, I’d make sure I went to 10 networking events a week, and it worked. My goal is to grow our business to four times the size it is today.
EJ: How does online networking, such as social media, influence your business? What about your website?
KM: I use Twitter, and our firm has a Facebook page. I’m also on LinkedIn and, of course, the Find-a-ProAdvisor website. The more people can see you, the more they end up trusting you.
We have a website that we’re in the process of updating. I’ve had clients come to me through our website and even call some of the testimonials we list on the site, so it’s important to have an online presence.
EJ: How do you find the right balance between marketing and running the business?
KM: If you’re not growing, then you’re going, meaning the business is not going anywhere. Marketing keeps business growing, and while I don’t go to 10 networking events a week anymore, I still do go to quite a few events to keep my firm growing.
EJ: What’s your company culture like?
KM: We work hard, but we keep it light and fun. We take team breaks to go for a walk, hit a happy hour and celebrate milestones. We all love to learn, and the constant education is important. I know for me, it really drives my passion and I want everybody in the firm to feel that same drive. In our weekly staff meetings, we’ll ask each other, “What did you learn this week?”
EJ: You mentioned that you mostly serve professional service firms, but we’re interested in learning about one of your small business clients. Do you have any small business client(s) that you’ve helped in recent years? For example, did you help them overcome a challenge? If so, what?
KM: Sometimes, a client is not even aware of the challenges until they are freed from the burden of needless work. One of my largest clients is forever grateful for learning about Right Networks to host their QuickBooks Desktop file, Bill.com for bill payment, and Concur and Expensify for expense reports. The owners, bookkeepers, and management team now have real-time access to their data, wherever they go, with appropriate levels of security.
EJ: Ending on a fun note. If you weren’t an accountant, what would you like to be?
KM: While I love being a CPA and helping small businesses with their accounting, if I had been more aware of the jobs on Wall Street while in college, I would have loved to have gone into stock trading. I’ve done it on the side with some nice upswings, but for now, I’ve left my portfolio up to the experts.
Editor’s Note: Click on the video below to see Kath McQuiggan’s Firm of the Future video.