Earning Customer Loyalty

This time last year, my amazing fiancé (now husband) surprised me for my birthday with a 6-month coaching package from an online fitness coach I’d been obsessed with following for several months through various Social channels. For once, a fitness persona who uses hashtags like “#TeamPants” & “#MyMomFollowsMe”, and is 100% focused on bettering herself and anyone who will follow. It’s not an overstatement to say that Sarah Bowmar has changed my life.

Upon first look at the program (meal plan + cardio + weight training routines), I was completely overwhelmed & remember telling Brian “there’s no way I can actually do this while traveling like I do”. But for anyone who has spent any time with me on the road this past year, it’s clear that where there’s a will, there’s a way – and I’ve made it happen. Even if that means living out of a cooler in a hotel room, or eating MRE-style tuna pouches while driving across Southern Illinois.

But I promise, this isn’t a blog about fitness – in fact, one of the things I respect so much about Sarah has nothing to do with fitness at all – it has to do with her ability to earn customer loyalty – and that’s something we all can agree is a highly sought after skill…

From the moment I discovered Sarah, I was hooked – skimming through all her Instagram posts, Tweets, YouTube videos, and diligently saving her newsletter workouts to cobble together some of the most challenging workouts I’ve ever done – all with material she provides to followers for free. I remember for a split second thinking “why do I need her coaching package, I have everything she does already?”, but I underestimated her – and myself.

I know for many accountants, they’re doing things on their own as well – I’ll often meet a firm who has a great start to their online practice, and I’m so impressed that they’ve done it with little to no resources from Intuit, but it’s clear they’re struggling (and often frustrated). It’s so fun being the one who gets to break the good news to them by sharing everything we can provide to them as part of our managed account team. Ultimately, It’s an opportunity for us to really earn the loyalty of our partners, who have put their trust in us, by putting their clients on our platform.

As I’ve watched Sarah & her husband, Josh, build their businesses over this past year, I’ve seen myself go from “freemium” user, to client, to supplement user, to elite member of their bowmarfitness membership website. I’ve seen her soar to over 1 million Instagram followers (giving back regularly to loyal followers by doing weekly – sometimes daily – giveaways). And I’ve caught myself feeling such a sense of gratitude for what she’s done for me…and through that, an amazing sense of loyalty. There are millions of places I could go online to find more workouts, but I choose to come back to the Bowmars, because they invested in me, and earned my loyalty.

There’s such a sense of accomplishment when I know that partners who previously recommended other solutions have now shifted to QuickBooks Online. Accounting software is just a tool, and they all have debits & credits, but what can set a tool apart from another is the people behind that brand. I only hope that I can be a similar inspiration to the accountants I work with every day. I hope that my managed firms feel valued, appreciated, and even inspired by me as they make huge strides and move closer to the daunting task of taking their practice online. I imagine when many of them first hear my  pep talk, they feel a bit overwhelmed too, but I’ve seen some of my firms make amazing progress this past year, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Throughout the year, I’ve sent progress check-ins to Sarah, and she’s been an amazing encouragement, as well as providing me guidance on things to do differently. Anything worth doing in life is challenging, but having a cheerleader rooting you on sure helps. She constantly makes me feel like she feels proud of the difference she’s made in my life.

In the same way, I absolutely love getting the call or email from my partners telling me “got another QBO for you”, and I love that we’ll often do a virtual happy dance together when a big one comes across. It’s such a great privilege to represent a company like Intuit, and help earn customer loyalty for QBO. I love feeling like I’ve helped make a difference in my partners’ careers…and lives.

Play Your Position

Growing up playing soccer, I learned many lessons about being a good team player: don’t hog the ball; cover for your teammate when they need it; when you get a break-away…don’t look back! As the resident center forward, I spent most Saturday afternoons gloating about how many goals I scored – of course, very aware that it took an entire team to get me the ball, cover for me, and ensure that while I was sprinting down the field with the ball, nobody was going to sneak up on me at the last minute and make me miss the shot. There’s no way I would have had the successful 10-year run in the sport had it not been for my teammates.

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And every once in a while, when the lineup was laid out, I would see my name somewhere other than front & center, but on defense instead. I admit, I loved being the star & getting the high-fives for making the victories happen, but it was also very necessary to fill in when I was needed in the back field – or to give others a chance to be in the spotlight. So I would take the field and give it 110% every time, and be sure that I helped our team win every way I could.

Little did I know that 20+ years later, I’d be using those childhood soccer lessons in my professional life. For the past 9 years, my various roles have centered mainly around attending accounting conferences and trade shows – I made my name in the accounting world as “ScanSnapKim” by doing so, and have met so many amazing people on the road at shows. While the show circuit can be exhausting at times, there’s such a great community in which you become a part, and I look forward to seeing them at each event.

When I started at Intuit back in 2013 as part of a new Business Development team & program, we saturated the events world as a way to get our message out to our accountant partners. The past 2 years have been absolutely brutal, but amazing at the same time. I’ve often compared it to building a skyscraper – you have to first dig down deep, to ensure that you’ve got a solid foundation that will support the exponential growth yet to come. Of course, very few people see how much effort goes into building everything below ground – it’s always the building that gets the attention.

With that, we’ve had an incredible past year, as QBO has hit and passed the one million company mark here in the U.S. – and our team is a huge part of that growth. I’ve loved being part of this success – scoring victories along with my accounting firms as they transform their businesses into being firms of the future with QBO and cloud technology – and getting recognized internally and in the accounting profession for doing so.

All the success has come with lots of changes too – new leadership, new initiatives, new responsibilities. As we round out our fiscal year, I’ve been asked to play a new position, which will keep me out of the conference circuit for most of the remainder of the year. For the first time in years, I’m missing some of the “can’t miss” events that I look forward to each year. But I won’t be putting my suitcase away. In fact, I’ll be traveling more than ever as I visit accounting firms and work strategically with them to transition their practice…those meetings, which are vital to our success at Intuit, don’t however have event hashtags.

So as I sat in an all-day training session in Dubuque, IA this week, and now rush around the Mid-West from meeting to meeting, I’ll be thinking of everyone at Expensicon. Last week I could only sympathize with my fellow ITA members as they braved the Houston floods at ITA’s Spring Collaborative. And when I see all the photos from my work friends in the Bahamas next month at Scaling New Heights, I’ll likely be driving from firm to firm in Southern California. I’ll be missing all the laughs & photo opps, but I know I’m where I need to be to help Intuit reach our next goal.

My absolute best season of soccer ended unusually for me – I didn’t make the all-star roster, which was tough for me to swallow…but at our end of the year party, my coach presented me with the game ball – the ball with which we won every game of the season but two, the ball that took us to a sudden-death shoot-out in the championship game, the ball that she told everyone I had put the most marks on throughout the course of the season.

My hope is that as I play my position at Intuit this year, I’ll be fortunate enough to put a few marks on our game ball, and when I see everyone next year, I’ll have some great stories to tell about what we’re doing to help or firms reach for the cloud.

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A is for Austin

2015 was absolute blur – in the best possible sense. It was a Saturday afternoon just over a year ago, during one of my “layovers” in Palm Springs between two business trips, which set the stage for this year. Brian & I set off on a hike up Mount San Jacinto, something we’ve always enjoyed since he moved to the desert 2 years ago…

We chatted about New Years resolutions: take a vacation, get my life organized after living out of a suitcase for years, and continuing our renewed passion for fitness together in the new year. Little did I know, we would be walking down that mountain knowing exactly what the next year would have in store for us.

A is for Austin

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As I wrote a post to close out last year, I mentioned a new last name was on the horizon…and I’m excited to report this year, on August 30, I became Mrs. Austin (although sadly, it took me until November 25 to legally change my name…and all the married women say Amen).

It seems like yesterday, yet forever ago, that I was scurrying about getting ready to marry my strategic partner, publicist, best friend…we joked that there should have been a press release with the headline “Intuit Marries Avalara”.

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F is for Family

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Everything came together & thanks to some help from my little brother, we said “I Do” in a small family ceremony (even Grandma made it from Michigan) in what is now our Palm Springs backyard.

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Having my little brother marry us represents something far deeper than what the surface would show. Growing up, we two middle children were at constant odds with each other, but as adults, he and his family have become my North Star, and the stability I’ve always craved in family. Auntie Kim & Uncle B cannot wait to welcome Asher’s little brother any day now!

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I’ve also been so incredibly welcomed by the Austin clan – from my new nephews & nieces, to my wonderful brother & sister-in-laws, to my Step-Son, who will always be my free gift with purchase.

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H is for Home

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For years I’ve said that home is where my suitcase is (wherever that happened to be that day). It’s been amazing to transition these past few months to a Palm Springs resident, and truly have a place feel like home. As we start our life together as a family, it’s a great feeling to know the house I helped pick out in the desert is finally ours this year.

M is for Motivation

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There’s nothing quite like getting married to motivate healthy living. As August approached, and people started in with the comments about “getting in shape for the big day”, we adamantly argued that our motivation to be healthy & active comes from wanting that in our life together, not just for a few photos on one day (although, that didn’t hurt). From reinventing our healthy cooking, to refining our road meals, to reinvigorating our gym routines, we’ve made good (and then some) on that promise to each other this year.

T is for Thankful

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This year has come with professional excitement as well – new honors, new leadership, new partners, and most of all new work-friends. It’s been such a great ride these past few years as I’ve built a professional name and brand for myself in the accounting profession. I’m absolutely thrilled to continue that on now as Mrs. Austin, and share just a piece of it with the person who has been my rock for the past 6 years, and supported me every step of my professional (and personal) journey.

V is for Vacation

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We did it! For the first time in 10+ years, we turned the laptops off (mostly) and spent an incredible 10 days out of the office. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better vacation – much less honeymoon – where we had no agenda other than relaxing, finding great coffee, and getting our workouts in without having to watch the clock to race to our next meeting. It was such a wonderful experience…I just might have to do it again.

C is for Celebrate

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If you’re like me, the holidays tend to sneak up on you & before you have time to enjoy them, you’re stressed out and overwhelmed. This year however, I have tried to let go of at least a few of the Christmas-time worries, and focus on why we celebrate in the first place. I have so much to be grateful for – both personally & professionally. As we close the chapter on 2015, I’m choosing to celebrate the amazing colleagues, partners, and friends who make me love my job, my incredible support system that recharges me when my battery reads 10%, and life’s big & little moments, which we all know can happen every day of the year.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and an incredible New Year!

Love,
Mrs. Austin

#FriendsThatLift

This past week was a whirlwind trip to #QBConnect…an amazing time with so many awesome people. I knew before I left that I would blog about the trip, but it wasn’t until Wednesday night that I realized it wouldn’t be a real QBC 2015 blog without it including Kelly Bistriceanu (Kelly B to some of us). So we got together & jotted down our thoughts on how we got through the last crazy week. Without further adieu, here you have, a View From OUR Shoes…

We’ve both been on the road nonstop for weeks, and constantly doing “the best we can” to stick to our programs – eat right, sleep enough, workout as much as possible. But anyone who travels like we do knows how difficult this can be during conferences.

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We’ve traveled together enough to know that it’s entirely possible to implement the buddy system for the greater good. Instead of slacking off together, sleeping in & sneaking back to our room with dessert, we’ve often held each other accountable and gotten up before the sun to get in our morning workouts, and have made many impromptu Trader Joe’s/ Whole Foods pit stops to ensure we’re sticking to our healthy eating plan. Heck, even when we’re not together we still manage to spur each other on.

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It’s always possible, it just requires a little planning & a lot of commitment. Our #QBConnect plan of attack actually started weeks ago, as we emailed & texted each other, strategizing about shelf-stable portable meal ideas to take with us in the car for our 10+ hour journey to San Jose. We even spent our weekend in Palm Springs in the gym getting pumped up for the big show…

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We were prepared to succeed and we stuck together to make it happen. #QBConnectOrBust didn’t have to bust our program.

Looking back on the past year, working out & eating right are just two examples of the Kelly & Kim strategy to building a solid partnership. It is our work worlds that have brought us together, after all, and we’ve taken full advantage of that whenever possible. From mutual introductions to industry contacts, to co-presenting at national accounting firms, to driving across the country to meet with more firms, to Friday night email conversations, to weekend strategy calls in airports while traveling to our next event, the partnership we’ve built has evolved from professional colleagues to “work friends”, and ultimately friends – no strings attached.

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As hectic as life on the road can be, having someone who’s there to lift you up (or wake you up), bring you coffee (or pre-workout), give you a hug (or share a backseat of an SUV for almost 11 hours), and cheer you on to the finish line (or crawl over it right next to you), can be the most amazing gift. In a world where so many people try to keep personal-life/ work-life in two distinct boxes, for us there’s really no separation of the two. Now that we’ve helped each other survive & thrive when it’s needed most, we’ll always be #FriendsThatLift.

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About Kelly…

Kelly Bistriceanu is the Accountant Program Director at TSheets Time Tracking.  An avid competitive runner, fitness competitor and group exercise instructor, Kelly thrives personally and professionally by ensuring her passion for fitness integrates seamlessly into her road warrior life style. When not traveling the globe, helping accounting professionals become successful TSheets PROs, Kelly and her husband Daniel call beautiful Boise, Idaho home base.  Follow Kelly’s #TSheetsWorldTour adventures on twitter and Instagram @KellyTSheets.

6 Ways We’ll Know if #QBConnectOrBust is a Success

That’s right – we’re doing it again! Why fly when you can spend the entire day driving to QuickBooks Connect! As you can imagine, a lot can happen when you put 6 people in a Ford Expedition for 445.5 miles, but here are 6 ways that we’ll know the trip was worth our effort!

  1. If we get there & Wally World is open
  1. If we avoid the need to intentionally drive the car off a cliff while holding hands and humming aloud Hans Zimmer’s “Thunderbird”
  1. If we don’t have to leave Richard’s luggage on the roadside to make room for our dead uncle in the trunk area
  1. If nobody strips down to their tighty-whities and succumbs to the invisible fire after crashing into a ravine alongside Interstate 5 near the Grapevine
  1. If we don’t find out in Bakersfield that there’s a bomb in the car that will go off if Brian lets the car go below 50mph
  1. If we arrive in San Jose safely in our rental car and not a Las Vegas PD squad car with a tiger in the back seat

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Be sure to follow all of us for #QBConnectOrBust updates! We’ll be tweeting from the road as we make our way to #QBConnect on Sunday, November 1.

Kim Austin | The Hostess with the Mostest | @Kimtuitive

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Brian Austin | The Transporter | @AustinNexus

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Kelly Bistriceanu | The Party Starter | @KellyTSheets

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Gail Perry | The Documentarian | @GaPerry

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Jan Haugo | The Troublemaker | @JazFun

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Richard Roppa-Roberts | Curmudgeon | @NeverCallMeRich

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Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

As tradeshow season winds down each year, and we all have a chance to catch our breath, another exciting season kicks in – Accounting Award Season. Sure to the outside world, it might mean slightly less than winning an Emmy or Golden Globe, but for those of us inside this community, we all look forward to seeing who made the lists, and, more importantly, what they had to say about what’s going on in the profession today.

2015 has been an amazing year thus far – I’m still pinching myself – at times praying – I don’t wake up from the most amazing dream ever. In June, I was honored by CRN Magazine as a Woman of the Channel. In August, I got my new last name (the one I hinted at in What a Difference a Year Makes). And in September, I was blown away to see that new name listed on Accounting Today’s Top 100 Most Influential People list, as well as CPA Practice Advisor’s 40 Under 40 honorees.

Proud, excited, humbled, honored – absolutely; All of the above. But I can’t just look at all of these accolades without highlighting one very key factor. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that it’s the most critical piece of every one of these honors. When being considered for any of these lists, there’s always a questionnaire to complete…each one had a common question:

Who has influenced you & what impact have they had on your career?

It’s always my favorite question – because it’s the one chance I get to share just a tidbit of the wisdom that so many influencers have bestowed upon me. I’ve always lived with the philosophy that you should be proud of how high you climb, but you must remember those who have boosted you up – without them you would never have reached that next level. So when Accounting Today’s Top 100 list came out, it was this excerpt on Mentoring the Influential that I was the most excited to see.

Fortunate doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about those in my life and career who have chosen to invest in me – I love having the opportunity to publicly thank people like Geni Whitehouse, who quickly learned to read me like a book, and filled me with a lot of her wisdom & even a little dose of her confidence.

IMG_1732Friends like Gail Perry, who’s love of adventures on the road has led to great moments of bonding, and whose fierce loyalty has proved a coveted gift.

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Or amazing Powerhouse women like Caroline Cummings and Intuit’s CMO, Caroline Donahue both of whom became inspirational female leaders and role models to me this past year after meeting them.

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I love rewinding 10+ years and remembering the manager who hired the new college grad intern from upstairs – then hired me again to run his channel – Lee, I hope your “Kiddo” has made you proud, thank you for believing in me.

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And at a very special time in my life, it’s been satisfying to finally be able to express how much my husband, Brian, AKA “Mr. Publicist”, has done to change my career – and then my life. Without him, I may have never met so many others who have made a huge impact on me.BK

I wholeheartedly believe in paying it forward, so while today I’m thankful for these mentors of mine, my dream is that one day, I’ll make the cut as someone who made a difference in somebody’s career…maybe then, I’ll consider my work done…maybe.

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” -Isaac Newton

My Friend Tom

It’s hard to believe we’re already gearing up for the next ITA Fall Collaborative. The ITA meetings are some of the smallest events I attend each year, but in a way, that’s why they’re special. I’ve been active in ITA since 2011, when I blew into Buckhead with my neon pink high heels and had CIOs and COOs at top firms talking about the new “shoe girl” at the meetings.

What started as some hallway banter between two Accounting Technology Association professionals was the start of some of the dearest friendships I’ve made throughout my career.

With various roles at several different organizations in the accounting space going back to 2007, I’ve known many of the ITA members even longer than I’ve been a “shoe girl”…they’ve literally watched me grow up, and many have been amazing mentors to me over the eight years I’ve known them.

Early on in my ITA tenure, I was fortunate to get involved in volunteer work for the organization. I’ve done a bit of this and that, helped out onsite, provided nurturing to fellow Affinity Partners, chaired committeea dedicated to Affinity Partners and young leaders coming up in the organization – and most near and dear to my heart, I’ve spearheaded (with help from several others) a movement of young ITA attendees, dubbed GenNOW. This group wants to help shape the future of the organization that we’ll one day be running. As a group, we’re largely unstructured, and primarily focus on building a community around younger professionals providing a safe place for them to gather and share knowledge…after all, the ITA creed is Knowledge increases in value when shared.

One of the best things to come out of the GenNOW movement is the realization that there’s no age requirement or limit to thinking next gen. Several years ago during one of the Fall Collaborative meetings, I met Tom Falloon of Cargas Systems, a VAR/ solution provider from Lancaster, PA, who was attending his first ITA meeting. Tom certainly knew other ITA members when he arrived in Salt Lake City that year, but when the cotton snowball fight broke out during the Winter Wonderland Gala, and most of the GenNOW-ers were behind it, Tom was caught double fisting white “snow”. We all sort of adopted Tom that week, and declared that he was “one of us”…little did he know – it would stick!

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Ever since that meeting, we’ve always made it a point to find each other on opening night and reconnect throughout the event. One of my favorite traditions is finding a new person whom we haven’t yet told the hilarious story from our now infamous game of “Heads Up” (sorry, inside baseball), that had to have permanently solidified the bond between Tom and me.

Tom continues to help the GenNOW group push for new thinking at ITA, and his support has become not just valued, but literally coveted. Many times as young professionals it’s easy to feel like you’re at the kids’ table, and not being taken seriously. Tom provides just the right dose of reality-check-meets-cheerleader to ensure that we keep our feet on the ground, but reach for our goals. Most of all, Tom has taught me that your birthday means absolutely nothing. You don’t have to be under a certain age to understand why it’s important to have young input in an organization. Young thinking is a valuable trait whatever your age may be.

So thanks, Tom – Oh, and thanks for the photo…not bad for your first selfie!

Tom