All posts by Nate Joy

About Nate Joy

Nate is the Co-founder and Owner along with his wife Terra. Nate joined the team full-time in Spring 2017 with 10+ years of Project Management/Business Analysis experience. He works with clients on process improvement and software implementation.

Artificial Intelligence and Accounting – The Challenge of ‘Now’

Although we can understand the past (what we’ve experienced) and try to predict the future (what we can dream up), often the most difficult thing to understand is what is happening RIGHT NOW. And nowhere today is that more true than in artificial intelligence.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve all heard buzzwords such as ‘artificial intelligence’ a million times. And there is no doubt that the buzz is real; the resulting advances will change the way we work and live in a fundamental way. According to Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, “Artificial intelligence is the science and engineering of making computers behave in ways that, until recently, we thought required human intelligence.”

When it comes to AI, on the one end of the spectrum – let’s call it ‘The Sky Is Falling’ view – the questions are along the lines of ‘How long until I lose my job to a robot?’On the other end – let’s call it the ‘Pie in the Sky’ view – the questions more closely resemble ‘How long until I can live comfortably without working so much since AI will be doing my time-consuming work?’

Our own mental model of the world is shaped by past experiences. When something completely new comes into existence – like the Internet in the 90’s – it’s takes some adjusting to wrap our brains around what it means and how to use it. You don’t have to look very far on Facebook to see that many of us are still on the social media learning curve – ourselves included!

On the other end of the spectrum, our ability to dream helps us to see what is possible in the future. Movies have always tried to predict what the future will look like, sometimes with creepy accuracy…and sometimes not. I looked up a few big misses, and they included gems from movies like Back to the Future II, which showed at various points both restaurants with workout bikes and people floating around on hoverboards (not to pick on this movie too much as it also basically predicted the Cubs winning the World Series after a 100+ year drought). We don’t always get the future right, but many people enjoy thinking about what could be possible.

Although we can understand the past (what we’ve experienced) and try to predict the future (what we can dream up), often the most difficult thing to understand is what is happening RIGHT NOW. And nowhere today is that more true than in artificial intelligence. I’m sure that each of us have two kinds of stories – the first kind involving ‘wow’ experiences (“I can’t believe this system is that smart/helpful/amazing”) and the second kind quite the opposite (“I can’t believe it’s 2019 and this device still can’t do X, Y, or Z”).

Terra and I had the second type of experience while navigating through Seville, Spain, a couple of years ago. I made the mistake of driving towards the center of the old town, and we found ourselves on roads that were so narrow that the sidewalks were essentially acting as rails on both sides. A couple of restaurants had to move a few tables for us to get around them! We were guided to this perilous location by our helpful Google Maps assistant. Worse yet, when we got to a pedestrian square, her directions basically indicated that we needed to stop, pick up and carry the car across the square, and continue on our merry way. Yeah right!?!

Existence in this seemingly perpetual transitory state can seem confusing at best and irritating at worst. Every intelligent system we use (and the companies behind them) are continually trying to improve, but we are (sometimes painfully) living through their growing pains. Technological advances have absolutely enabled us to say “Yes, we can help” to just about every single problem/issue that a client can come to us with.

This is no less true in the Accounting industry. On the one hand we (as Accounting professionals) are experiencing amazing times because of this technological improvement. We are constantly finding new ways to utilize cutting-edge technology to solve business problems. Although we do encounter a lot of similar issues, there are occasions for new problems to come to the forefront. And when that happens, we invariably say ‘I’m sure there is a solution for that!” And then we invariably find it. Technological advances have absolutely enabled us to say “Yes, we can help” to just about every single problem/issue that a client can come to us with.

But the important thing to realize is that artificial intelligence is in many ways in its infancy, and therefore as a small business owner it’s critical to have professionals by your side who have ‘seen it all’ and understand the pitfalls and challenges associated with each system. Despite the amazing progress we’ve made, businesses still need trained professionals who know how to scout out the errors or anomalies in an imperfect software world.

We at Joy Accounting have built a library of knowledge based on these particulars, including how well specific systems work together (or not). Recently we noticed some minor calculation errors in one of our accounting programs that, had we not known what to look for, would have gone unnoticed and could have affected clients negatively. This latter example is more related to automation than AI per se, but the same idea applies – you need someone who knows the ins and out of the software you are using by your side. Despite the amazing progress we’ve made, businesses still need trained professionals who know how to scout out the errors or anomalies in an imperfect software world.

I’ll leave you with a Forbes article from 2018. Although the article clearly suggests that artificial intelligence is the future of accounting (in fact that’s in the title!), it also states that “Despite being very promising, the accuracy of the machine learning algorithms used in most of today’s solutions still needs to significantly improve in efficiency to avoid accounting errors and really fulfill their promise of automation.”

Ready to Start a New Business in Washington State? Know these 10 things

The start of a new year always lends itself to dreaming – of new heights to achieve personally, new places to travel, new financial goals to set, and so much more. No matter how 2018 went for you, 2019 is a completely new canvas, and you have an opportunity to paint your brightest and boldest colors.

So why not start up that business you’ve always dreamt of? If you’ve been dreaming of leaving your day job and diving into something new, perhaps 2019 is the year to take the plunge!

After many years of hard work gaining experience and knowledge it should be easy to start, shouldn’t it?  Not really…starting a new business is exciting, but the path is also fraught with many details – small and large – that can seem tedious at best and overwhelming at worst.

If you decide to move forward, you could be on your way to making your dreams become a reality, creating the life you want and doing the things you love. But where to start? Below we’ve provided a 10 critical steps and knowledge points to help you get going.

Note that this list is specifically focused on Seattle-area Construction companies, but in many industries and locales there are likely some equivalent actions you will need to take, no matter the type of business you are starting. Now is the time to turn that dreaming into action!!!

Choose a Business Structure – Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Corporation, or LLC? There are specific tax implications for each option. We suggest meeting with a CPA who can walk you through the pros and cons of each to help you decide which option is best for you.

Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS – This number will allow you to open bank accounts for the business, apply for state business licenses, pay employer taxes, and file tax returns.

Register your Business with the Secretary of State – This is necessary if your new business will be a partnership, corporation, or llc.

Apply for a Washington State Business License – This will allow you to conduct business in the state. This application is where you will specify if you plan on hiring employees. If so, once you file this application, the two entities that handle unemployment insurance (Employment Security Department) and workers compensation (WA L&I) will be notified automatically and you will be assigned account numbers from each entity. Also, if you know you will be doing business in specific cities, you have the option to add city license endorsements while filing this application. Not all cities offer their licenses through this service, so check beforehand to see if your city has a separate application.

Purchase Bond & Liability Insurance – WA L&I requires contractors to have a surety bond for either $12,000 (General Contractor) or $6,000 (Specialty Contractor). Liability insurance coverage can be a $50,000 property damage policy and $200,000 public liability policy OR a $250,000 combined single limit policy. You can find more information here.

Complete Contractor Registration – This allows you to work as a licensed contractor in the state. Take your completed registration application and proof of your bond & insurance to any L&I office to have it notarized and processed.

Apply for City Licenses & Permits– Many cities in WA require you have a city license to conduct business there. Access WA is a helpful site that links to each city’s web page directly.

City of Seattle – Seattle has specific labor laws that are different than the state laws. If you will have employees working in Seattle, here is where you can find information on their requirements.

Apply for Reseller Permit This allows you to purchase materials purchased for direct resale without paying sales tax.

B&O and Sales Tax – Understanding the requirements specific to your industry is critical to be sure you are charging your customers the correct sales tax rates. DOR has provided a guide for contractors to understand their requirements.