Welcome to another in a series of profiles about the 2015 Firm of the Future finalists.
Elizabeth Joyce: First, tell us about your firm.
Stacy Kildal: I founded Kildal Services LLC because I needed more flexibility, which my employer at the time didn’t provide. We have one part-time admin, Katie Bauer, and a partner, Shannon Wands. We have about 20-25 regular monthly clients, and another 10 -15 that we work for from time to time.
EJ: What’s it like it to have your staff working 100% remotely?
SK: It’s fantastic. We use Slack for intercompany communications. We regularly get on the phone to discuss complex issues that can’t be handled online. Everyone knows they can work whenever they want, as long as they get the work done accurately and on time. I feel that everyone is more productive and happier.
EJ: Share with us a little background about your firm. What type of clients do you serve? What are the services you provide?
SK: We made a very conscious choice in early 2014 to really focus on exactly what we want to do. I didn’t want to deal with inventory too much anymore and was looking to focus on serving small businesses with fewer than 20 employees in the service industry, and preferably willing to work remotely.
When we start working with clients, our first step is to move them to QuickBooks® Online to make it easier to work with them remotely. I also try to add in one or two different apps just to make it easier for them to begin using QuickBooks Online.
EJ: How long have you been using QuickBooks Online? How has it changed over time, and what is your clients’ reaction when you transfer their files to the cloud?
SK: Apps have made all the difference. I started using QuickBooks Online in 2009, when I was writing the offering’s original training courses for the US, Singapore and Canadian versions. Back then, there were a few apps to choose from. Fast forward seven years and now there are more than 2,000 in Apps.com. I like the following analogy: I love shoes so I really like to buy new ones, but I love getting new apps almost as much. In fact, I spend 10, 15 or 20 minutes every day just checking out Apps.com to look at new apps and their reviews. When we find an app that does a task really well, this makes a difference for our company and for our small business clients. It’s fascinating just to see all of these awesome third-party developers that are coming on and just really allowing small businesses to save so much time.
One of my clients, a plumber, had an employee out in the field that was handwriting invoices, receipts and every piece of record about the business. My client said he spent every Sunday re-entering all of that information into QuickBooks Desktop. We were able to move him to QuickBooks Online and get him a field service management tool. As a result, instead of spending six hours every Sunday entering or reentering data into QuickBooks, he now gets to spend it with his five kids. It has been amazing to watch how apps are literally changing lives.
EJ: How did your clients take it when you first transitioned to a fixed pricing model?
SK: When I first made the transition, some of them weren’t too thrilled, but they quickly changed their minds once they saw that they weren’t being billed every single time they called me. They knew they could email, text or call and I wasn’t always on the clock. And, that really, really helped convince them.
A few others were still not convinced – particularly the ones I used to go visit regularly. When we made the transition to the cloud, I explained that we were going to change to flat fee billing because I don’t have to drive out there every week or every other week. This means their cost would be lowered, and when they heard that, it was a no brainer for them.
EJ: Can you talk a little bit about how new clients find you, or how you find new clients?
SK: New clients generally find Kildal Services because I write a lot of blogs and articles. I’m very active on social media, and whether it’s working with vertical industries, such as wineries, or the construction business, accounting professionals need to attend those trade shows or be wherever potential clients are. This doesn’t mean setting up a booth at multiple events right away, but just attending and introducing yourself is a great first step. Another great way to bring in new leads is to start a meetup group. The key is to find out where your target market is and then leverage social media or in-person events to get connected with those potential clients.
EJ: How did the Find-a-ProAdvisor Program play a really big role in building your practice?
SK: When I first started around 2005, I had to borrow the money from my mom to join the ProAdvisor Program. Once I got certified, I got listed on the Find-a-ProAdvisor website and was able to pay her back, after the second engagement. The Find-a-ProAdvisor website, and really, the whole ProAdvisor program, changed my entire life. Getting listed on Find-a-ProAdvisor is free advertising.
When potential clients are having a hard time, they’ll find you without ever leaving the product. We probably get one or two referrals per week. It’s amazing. I got many clients when I first started with the Find a ProAdvisor website.
EJ: Think of your favorite client. Which of their traits would you like all your clients to have?
SK: They’re very involved in their business and how it’s doing, but not a micromanager. They let us do our job and trust that we’re doing it well.
EJ: If you weren’t an accounting professional, what would you like to be?
SK: Tap dancer.