Cooking our Way to QuickBooks Connect

Since starting Joy Accounting four years ago, Terra and I have had the opportunity to travel to QuickBooks Connect in San Jose on three occasions. QuickBooks Connect is a three-day event put on by Intuit every November with (seemingly) a million classes on all things accounting and so much more. 

The main stage at QB Connect

What is the ‘so much more’ I’m referring to? Copious amounts of classes taught by industry leaders on everything from maximizing the value we offer to our clients to understanding latest trends in cryptocurrency. Amazing keynote speakers such as Oprah, Shonda Rhimes, and Alex Rodriguez (Oprah was definitely the best of that group!). Lots of opportunities to connect with representatives from a ton of QuickBooks partner apps. Oh – and in our first year we were even treated to a Goo Goo Dolls concert. Seeing over a thousand accountants rocking out to Goo Goo Dolls is about as nerdy – and awesome – as it sounds. 

Proof that Goo Goo Dolls really happened

This year, however, was the absolute best, because we brought our team along with us. What an amazing experience it was! 

Connecting Through…Cooking?

One of the cool things about building a business in the digital age is that your team can be ‘location independent’. I plan on writing posts in the future about how we make our remote business work, but for now suffice it to say that our team represents 3 states (Washington, Minnesota, and Pennslyvania). So while we connect all the time via tools such as Zoom and Slack, prior to Quickbooks Connect we had never actually met together as a team. 

I (Nate) was tagged with the unofficial ‘MC of Activities’ role for the week, so naturally I started planning an activity for our first day together intended to be fun and not too business-oriented – something that would bond us together as a team. And because I love eating good food, I landed on cooking together! I found a great service, Cozymeal, who were willing to send a trained chef to our AirBnb for a 4-hour experience involving making (and, of course, eating) a several-course meal. (Note: if you decide to do this in San Jose area definitely ask for Chef Joni…she was fabulous!)

On the edge of our seats ensuring that we understood Chef Joni’s instructions

We laughed, we ate, we laughed some more, and we learned a lot about each other in the space of just a few hours! For example, everyone got to see how little I knew my way around a kitchen and I was pretty quickly given appropriate tasks for my skill level!

This activity set the stage for what ended up being a fabulous week at QuickBooks Connect (expect many more posts from this conference!). 

What was our main takeaway from the team-building part of our experience? As a small business owner, there are only so many different balls you can juggle at once, and it’s easy (and necessary) to let some things go by the wayside. Creating memories and connections with your team is absolutely not one of these things! 

At Joy Accounting, we are so lucky and grateful to have some intelligent, creative, problem-solving team members. We truly believe that the connections we made throughout this experience will help us collaborate even better in 2019. Watch out world!!!

We even made it to the beach on Laura’s birthday!

Thinking Through the ‘Why, How, and What’ of Starting a Small Business

At Joy Accounting, we LOVE working with small businesses. That may sound like an obvious point since the businesses we work with are typically fairly small. So why do we love the work we do with small businesses enough to capitalize and bold all letters of the word ‘LOVE‘? Among other reasons, it is because the business owners themselves are willing to step a bit into the unknown – with all the exciting and scary parts that implies – and we are able to share in that journey as a trusted adviser. With each new client we are humbled and thrilled to be a part of that process of getting a small business up and running.

Sometimes in the excitement to get work started, small business owners skip some critical steps. The typical owner is so overwhelmed by the tasks of today that they don’t spend a lot of time looking through the ‘big picture’ lens. Before they know it, small business owners can feel lost and harassed, even asking themselves why they took the leap in the first place.

In the initial phases of a small business, we’ve seen the most success when businesses spend time on the ‘why’, the ‘how’, and the ‘what’. Below are are a few critical steps; if you are thinking of starting a new business please don’t skip these! This is just a high level view, but each of these will require its own post sometime in the future.

Determine your vision (The ‘Why’)

Simon Sinek has been a pretty popular speaker and author in the past few years. His biggest theme is that all great leaders start with the ‘why’. If you don’t have a clear idea of why you started this journey then you are destined to fail. Small business ownership is not an easy path and you will need to lean on your ‘why’ in challenging times.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5, 10, 15 years? Go on a weekend retreat and write down your vision for each point in time, and think about your ultimate vision of where you want to be and what you want to accomplish at the end.  Is your dream to sell your business and set sail in the Caribbean, ensuring that everyone in Africa has clean water, or something entirely different? Don’t be afraid to think about your day-to-day life. Do you want more time with family? Are you looking to avoid the commute? Do you want to be your own boss? Determine what is important to you, and ensure that your business will fulfill these things.

Once you’ve set some dreams and goals, work backwards from there to determine profit goals, employees needed to achieve that profit, and revenue goals.

Determine Internal Processes/Infrastructure (The ‘How’)

A lot of small business owners know what needs to be done but don’t take the required time to actually explain to others ‘how’ it needs to get done. It is critical to map out the processes that are in your brain (and often have been locked away there for many years). Bounce these processes off trusted advisers/friends and make sure they make sense. What worked 15 years ago may not work now! This is a critical step as you scale your business and train anyone that is associated with your business.

Getting the processes in place will also help determine the technology you need to move your business forward. What apps can help you achieve your vision and standardize your processes? You’ll need to do some research to determine what is a good fit and meets your needs. Do you need help with timekeeping and employee benefits? Or maybe you’d like an app to streamline your estimating process. Once you’ve figured out what collection of apps work well for your needs, you’ll need to implement them and train your employees on how to use them.

Determine Your Role as Owner (The ‘What’)

Of course, the first ‘what’ is what kind of business that you want to have. But assuming that you’ve made that decision, the next ‘what’ question is  ‘what role do you want to play in your business’? This is an important question that many business owners forget to ask themselves. All too often, owners fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves, which is a one-way ticket to burnout. To avoid this, first determine what part of the business you’d like to manage yourself.

At this stage you’ll really want to hone in on how large you want your operation to be and what kinds of roles are needed to support the operation. And guess what – since you are the owner you get to decide what you end up doing! That is the beautiful and brilliant part of business ownership; don’t lose this opportunity to ensure that you operate in the space that will be maximally beneficial to your organization. It is a key topic to continually revisit as you grow so you ensure you are doing what you love and living the “why” of starting the business in the first place.

Bringing It All Together

Simon Sinek said “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”. Of these three things, the ‘why’ is most important. If you don’t have a ‘why’, you need to go back to the drawing board. Once you’ve solidified your ‘why’, don’t skip the critical steps of ensuring you’ve thought about how you want to run your business and what you want to do from day to day in the business you are creating. And never forget that YOU ARE CREATING this business. Make sure that you don’t sacrifice any of these things things simply to accommodate what someone expects from you. This small business is your dream!