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

What a Difference a Year Makes

The end of October marked one year since I started at Intuit. I remember walking into the room at #Solutions13 only 6 days on the job, and breathing a big sigh of relief…I felt like I had just come home.

As much as I felt at home, I realized how much had changed in the 15 months since I’d left the VSB Apps world to focus on internal accounting firm solutions. I mean, who the heck is TSheets and why is everyone wearing their shirts?

The sense of home is a bit ironic – for those who know me, I’m rarely home. Between extensive travel for work, and commuting between OC & Palm Springs – in 2014 “home” sort of became my suitcase and me, wherever that happens to be that night.

As I fast forward to today and look back on what 2014 brought professionally, I’m amazed to see in 14 short months not only that that I finally settled in, but grew the most amazing roots I’ve ever had professionally.

I’ve never been so proud to represent a company than I am working for Intuit. I’m surrounded by amazing, inspiring leaders who give me confidence that we’re well on our way to the next phase of Great. I’m every bit as grateful for teammates like Emily, Valerie, Woody, and the one & only Leary, who show me that they personally care about the success of our partners and customers too.

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I now know what TSheets is, and absolutely adore them…and I’m the proud owner of not just one – but two of the world’s softest TSheets TShirts. Kelly, Jen, Matt, Kelsie, and Victoria – you are all so amazing and make me thrilled to call you partners. Just so I don’t get accused of playing favorites (except it’s my blog, so I can), Jules, Chris & Team Tallie, Maddy & my pals at Avalara, and one of my newest friends, Caroline from Palo Alto Software (LivePlan) – are just a few more of this year’s highs – I can’t wait to continue bringing the QBO Ecosystem message to accounting firms everywhere.

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Spending nearly 90% of the year away from home this year was made immensely easier because of amazing work friends…who’ve now become friend-friends. Stacy, Richard, Mark, Jan, Gail, Shayna, Cathy, & Chelsey – I am so thankful that “work” includes you.

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On a personal note, it was a year of change too – Auntie Kim welcomed a new niece and nephew, and I said goodbye to my first grandparent…both have given me a new sense of urgency to capture every moment – even if it’s a 30 minute visit en-route to the airport, a 4-hour layover in Houston, or that late night phone call to tease Grandpa about his Tigers…you never know when you won’t have that chance again.

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Something tells me that more change is on the horizon this year – so I’ll anxiously await exciting new adventures, and embrace different challenges, and hey, maybe even take on a new last name…

Happy New Year – wishing you all the best in 2015!

16 Things I Learned on #QBConnectOrBust

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I’m in the car on my way to #Solutions14. Of course, there are no @Intuitaccts challenges, only two of us in the car, and it’s just about 4 hours to Vegas instead of 443 miles to San Jose…but before I close the book on #QBConnect as the last big conference, I had to recap what I learned during this journey.

  1. Hotel room keys typically work best when trying to enter the correct room (right, Jan?)
  2. There is exactly a right amount of cream that Kelly should put in her coffee – and Brian can tell her when “that’s enough”
  3. When Richard warns you that you’ll likely want to throw him out of the car during the drive – keep in mind, he might be so right it happens before you leave the parking lot
  4. 3 people can spend 4 hours putting together a 12+ hour playlist, and the most notable song of the trip may still have been sung to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus” accompanied by a kazoo
  5. After 4 hours, not even one of those 3 people will think to test the audio connection in the vehicle to ensure it is actually equipped to play from an MP3 player
  6. When you need tech support – you’re extra thankful you invited a millennial along for the ride, Madeline to the rescue!
  7. When half of the passengers in a car were born in 1983 or later, the question “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” will invoke Siri and Google maps for reference material (now we all know to ask Gail)
  8. Kazoos are not as easy to play as you may think
  9. It’s completely possible to convert 3 QuickBooks Desktop files to QuickBooks Online from the backseat of a car filled with 6 #QBConnect Attendees (in fact, a few of them might even help out a little) somewhere between Valencia and Fresno
  10. Writing “Honk if you love QuickBooks Online” on the back of a Ford Expedition gives the driver an excuse to cut off traffic whenever necessary to elicit additional honks/ “likes”
  11. It’s entirely possible to stretch a 6 hour 41 minute drive to 10 hours by stopping at 3 Starbucks, 2 McDonalds, 1 In-N-Out Burger, and a gas station (plus the emergency AV cord recon)
  12. Posing with David Leary’s head on a stick can double your social impressions
  13. The aftermath of 6 business professionals in an SUV for 10 hours resembles a typical college dorm room on a Sunday morning – one word: HazMat
  14. A great way to redeem yourself after almost being thrown out of the car 5 minutes into the trip is reminding Brian to check the gas gage at 4 miles till empty (can you say Thelma & Louise?)
  15. The best way to assure you’ll leave #QBConnect more exhausted than any other conference is to arrive there already wiped out from a day in the car
  16. If you ever want to get to know, love, and appreciate 6 of your “favorite industry colleagues”…call them up and invite them to take a ride to San Jose. You’ll remember it for a long long time – Do I have any takers for #QBConnectOrBust 2015?

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Stop & Smell the BBQ

One of the things I’m always trying to explain to people about my frequent travels is that regardless of where I go on my business trips – every city looks the same: airport, cab, hotel room, conference center. Whether I’m in North Platte, NE or Waikiki, Honolulu, HI – I tend to have about the same amount of free time to “explore”…none.

Every once in a while though, I feel like I hit the jackpot. Over the past year or so, I’ve been privileged to connect with some extra-gracious locals, who have taken the time out of their lives, to ensure that my visit isn’t “just another day at the office”.

My colleague, Rachel, and I spent this week in Kansas City (“Home of BBQ and Jazz”) for the kick-off of the Boomer Technology Circle meetings. I’ve attended several other Boomer events here in KC, and have still managed to see about the same amount of the place: Westin Crown Center, taxi cab, Jack Stack BBQ. This week however, we fell into a tub of BBQ sauce, thanks to Scott Morrill from Boomer. Along with one of the other sponsors, we were whisked out of the Crown Center and off to famous Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ – where you can eat your dinner in a gas station. On the way back, we took the scenic route, and he provided us a tour of the various city landmarks including the new Plaza, the WWI Liberty Memorial monument, and Union Station.

Last Summer, while Brian & I were visiting a firm in the Detroit area, we were honored when an executive cleared his Friday evening at home (a rare occurrence if you know his travel schedule), to spend it showing us around. After a great dinner and a trip to see the Woodward Dream Cruise pre-show, we took a detour and were treated to an incredible tour of Cranbrook, which boasts a campus filled with architecture to take your breath away and keep you talking about it for years.

To be filed in the “once in a lifetime” folder, on a visit to Honolulu for the Hawaii Society of CPAs annual conference (trust me, it was still a work trip, filled with frustrations, 4:30am conference calls, and missed flights), my new customers showed me the Royal Hawaiian treatment. Swooping in for me in Waikiki, we quickly made our escape, explaining that they only go downtown if they have to. We proceeded to drive up a mountain just as it started to pour down rain. Determined to show me their favorite lookout spot, we made it to the top, made the mad-dash to the side of the cliff, and captured the most beautiful rainbow spanning the entire island of Oahu. Afterward, they showed me a great time filled with dinner, donuts, and moochi, as we sampled all of their favorite local spots.

It’s funny how these three experiences seem so simple – all they did was spend an evening with us. Yet the effort from these individuals to provide us business tourists with a little glimpse of something that we surely would have missed without a local there to guide us makes these seemingly small gestures so hugely meaningful.

The Glamour of Modern Air Travel

Every time someone says to me “You’re so lucky! I wish I could travel for work as much as you do…”, I always seem to be able to convince them to retract their comment…I figured I might have enough material now for an actual post…I didn’t realize it would be so hard to choose my top 10!

  1. TSA. Need I say more? Oh, but I will! I think part of the Pre-Check interview should be a dry-run through an actual TSA lane just to make sure we don’t let the guy who can’t hang up the phone and still removes his shoes, liquids, coat, and iPad (which never should have come out even PRE-Pre-Check) and puts them in the bin he shouldn’t be using into the program.
  2. What Coffee? Is it a law that you cannot serve good coffee at airports? Even when I’m excited enough to find something non-Starbucks, I’m typically brought back to a harsh reality by their ability to ruin coffee. Am I the only one who thinks that there are few scenarios where getting a good java jolt could be more critical than prior to blast off?
  3. The Armrest Lifter: Do I mind? YES I mind! Armrests should not be optional – they should be required not only in coach, but also in the back seat of most family cars to avoid the inevitable sibling “he’s touching my side” bickering en route to school. I’ll gladly let you use BOTH of them just as long as my butt doesn’t have to touch yours. If I ran the aviation world, there would be an optional shock feature that you could activate when your seat-neighbor crossed that magic seat division line.
  4. INfrequent Flyers: This might sound harsh, and I realize not everyone boards 4 airplanes a week, but come on people…a little special awareness maybe? Oh, and that little note on your boarding pass that says “Zone 6” doesn’t give you permission to stand in the Premier Access boarding lane when they announce that Active Military Personnel may now board.
  5. This space intentionally left blank for Stacy Kildal’s contribution.
  6. Oblivious Parents: Apparently to some, flight attendants are also babysitters. I’m always in awe when I see the single mom with three children put her ear buds in and pass out while the children race each other through the plane to the bathroom & back. Or perhaps my personal favorite, the father who’s so intently focused on his BlackBerry that he doesn’t notice (or care) his tantruming toddler next to him is screaming, convulsing, and kicking the seat in front of him from LAX to Atlanta (I’ll give you 3 guesses as to whose seat that was).
  7. Loud-Talking Sales Guy on Bluetooth in First Class: True Story – I once witnessed a man go from touchdown to live international sales WebEx presentation for GM executives before pulling into the gate. Sadly, he followed me right into the Untied club where he completed his pitch in the chair next to me. The poor woman trying to watch As the World Turns across from him muttered to me “I know more about what that guys does than I do about my husband’s work!”.
  8. Deplaning: Watching grown men mow-down elderly women and young children to beat them out the door. I typically lean to the woman next to me and whisper “his mother must be so proud”.
  9. Plane-side Luggage Valet: Apparently “line up against THIS wall” doesn’t translate into stupid, or doesn’t apply to the 6’3” 257lb. guy in a cheap suit who decides right in front of the 30-year-old business woman is the perfect spot to stand.
  10. Moving Sidewalks: Stand on the right. Walk on the left. By all means, let your children lie on the middle sprawled out with their backpack and rolly-bags that clearly weigh more than they do. It’s not like anyone is in a hurry to catch a flight around here.

Unplugged on Oahu

Sounds like a dream come true? Think again! Anyone who longs for a business trip to Hawaii (or any exotic destination for that matter) obviously hasn’t ever been on one of my island work adventures. Colleagues, family, and friends often tell me they’re envious of my travels. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, traveling off the mainland for work is no more enjoyable – but often a lot more frustrating – than any other business trip. Now before you call BS on me, let me just give you a glimpse into my little world a few weeks back as I traded in my stilettos for flip flops on my desperate search for power.

After a great-but-exhausting 5-days in Las Vegas for the first part of the week (if you missed my recap, see Hey, Baby – Let’s Go to Vegas!), my commute to Waikiki was extraordinarily crazy. Between the 4 ½-hour drive from Vegas, the 15-minute “layover” at home in OC, and my 1 ½-hour rush-hour drive to LAX, I arrived at the airport a cozy 30 minutes before my 6-hour flight to the beautiful island of Oahu. So, when I finally arrived at my hotel around 11pm local time (3 hours behind PDT), I was beyond wiped.

I managed to be pretty productive on the flight and cranked out proposals, contracts, and even a blog post. But as we approached the island, my battery read my mind and decided it was bedtime. When I got to my room, I quickly plugged in to release the emails I had drafted, but after the day I had just been through, I threw in the towel and decided to tackle the rest in the morning.

To my horror, I awoke not to the sound of waves outside my window, but to the sight of a low battery warning on my iPhone (which was charging from my laptop). I immediately realized that something was wrong, and my laptop wasn’t on. With my poor Ultra Book clocking as many frequent flyer miles as me, I’d been dealing with a temperamental power cord for weeks. Up until that point I had just managed to use the old “wiggle & twist” & “stick a wad of paper in there” tricks to keep things functioning. Not that day though. I was officially dead in the water.

I got creative, managing to use my iPad & iPhone for my morning calls & web meetings…of course, not thinking through the drain on their batteries while doing so. When I finally got a free window, I decided to trek out to the mall to see if I could hunt down a replacement charger. Several hours later, with a dead iPhone, dead iPad, and visit to three different stores, I returned to my hotel room victorious (Mahalo to Jared at Best Buy in Honolulu, my geek in a faded blue shirt, who saved my day & helped me ensure that the cord was the problem).

As I told this story to various people the past few weeks, the common reaction was an overly-sarcastic toned “Oh you poor thing, stuck in Hawaii with no laptop”. To which I can only reply that until you’ve been in my shoes, you’ll never know how bad it feels to be powerless trying to work on an Island.

Hey, Baby – Let’s Go to Vegas!

2013 marked my 4th annual AICPA Tech+/ Practitioners Symposium in Las Vegas. Over the past 4 years this event has stood out as a highlight for some great (and not so great) reasons. This year was no exception: I caught up with some of my favorite people in the industry, spent the night driving go-karts with a bunch of CPAs, and kept up the accounting trade show in Vegas tradition of invading In-N-Out with “In-N-Out rookies”. While this might sound appealing, I assure you that there are also some very serious side-effects involved with any Las Vegas trade show. To prove my point, I figured I’d spell out some of the reasons I love – and love to hate – the annual event that takes place in nobody’s favorite city.

The Good 

The Drive: Anyone else sick of packing in 3oz bottles, TSA pat downs, and cramming 5-days of business clothes into carry-on luggage? Well hop into our roomy Ultimate Edition (or similar) Avis provided rent-a-car for a smooth ride through the desert complete with stop in the now-famous Baker, California for a hard-earned, made-to-order Blizzard frozen dairy treat (held upside down for your viewing pleasure) from Dairy Queen.

Bonus Feature: The sky is the limit for shoes in Vegas (both in height and quantity). The real question is whether the hotel closet is big enough for my entire footwear collection.

The Bad

Let me start by saying that there is no such thing as a short walk in Vegas. A not-short walk in 5” heels makes for quite the commute from room to exhibit hall to dinner to room to…well, you get the picture. Heaven help me if I forget my laptop charger (or any other necessary item) behind. I’ve just lost an hour of my day – and my feet will be cursing me every step of the walk of shame back to my room (purely hypothetical example).

To add insult to injury, I’m fairly certain they have some type of Wurtzite Boron Nitrade for floors throughout Las Vegas, specifically designed to inflict extra pain on trade show attendees forced not only to walk – but stand in 10’X10’ exhibit hall booths. True story: there could possibly be a YouTube video of me walking barefoot through Aria carrying a pair of Christian Louboutins after I was officially defeated by the Vegas floors of death back in 2011.

The Ugly

Rise & Shine Accounting World (if you’re not still out from last night that is)! It’s 6:30am and breakfast is served! Now, let me clarify that “Breakfast” might include grey-centered hard boiled eggs and other “trade show food stuff”, but thankfully, because it’s 6:30am, you haven’t had any coffee yet, so you won’t care!

Speaking of coffee…don’t even get me started. Only in Vegas can you pay over $5 for a cup of terrible coffee that not only won’t give you even the slightest pick-me-up, but also won’t be remotely drinkable. My good friend @OrangeGirlNZ sums up the Las Vegas caffeine woes masterfully in this “Coffee Bible” of a blog (complete with photos). My advice: Live by it, she’s not kidding.

Getting through PSTech week in Vegas is sort of like running a 5-day marathon in high heels on about 5 hours of sleep. While some might prefer to think that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, I think we all know better…what happens in Vegas lives forever on social media. See you next year!Vegas

Things I’ve Learned from my Publicist

In honor of this special day, a tribute to @austinnexus, one of my very favorite people in the world. Here are just a few of the many things he’s taught me:

1. Never let an editor catch you in Chuck Taylors.

2. If you eat healthy 99% of the time – you are entitled to one (1) Mocha Chip Blizzard on every trip through Baker, CA.

3. When it comes to accounting trade shows…nothing good happens after midnight.

4. There’s no such thing as too much (good) coffee.

5. Good things happen to those who follow through and take advantage of every opportunity – even if it takes longer than you think it should.

6. With the right business purpose – you can justify paying just about anything for a great pair of shoes.

7. Always look toward the future – and think about what you want your shoe closet to look like.

8. Your network and your reputation are both fragile: handle with care.

9. You can never be too prepared for a natural disaster.

10. A ride to (or pick up from) the airport can sometimes be the most treasured gift.

11. Let him carry your bags – you’ll be glad you did when you’re pushing his wheelchair in 40 years.

12. The Bellagio tram door won’t even wait for someone as important as him.

13. The best kind of bar is a raw bar.

14. It is perfectly acceptable to drive straight from the gym to In-N-Out Burger as long as it’s not more than once a month.

15. Never underestimate a 4 hour car ride through the Mojave Desert…it just might change your life forever.

Happy 50th Birthday, Mr. Publicist! May the next 50 be even better than the first…

A Few Words About Jamba Hut

I’ve always believed that it’s far better to find something you’re really good at – and excel at that – than to be a Jack of all trades, but not really do anything well. There’s a slippery slope when you stretch yourself too thin, and wind up dropping balls and inevitably letting clients down. As someone who struggles to say “no” when asked to take on more, I’m constantly fighting this battle myself…which is perhaps why I feel so strongly about it.

Any traveler can relate to the experience of rushing from airplane to meeting and being forced to grab “airport fare” or some other quick (under most circumstances completely unacceptable) meal on the go. Over the past several years I’ve become a HUGE fan of the colorful concoctions filled with fruits & veggies made in a jiffy at Jamba Juice. Best of all, there seem to be new airport locations popping up left & right, so even a 45 minute layover can yield a healthy meal and spare my seat neighbor on my connecting flight from any unappreciated greasy McBagged aroma. I’ve come to count on the fact that Jamba always does one thing well: make fast healthy smoothies.

In typical fashion, after a near flight disaster (2.5 hour delay that would have made me miss my appointment), I wound up taking an early flight to SFO this week. After skipping lunch due to the rush, I made a bee line for a juice. When I walked in, to my horror, I was greeted by the smell of burning cheese. As I looked around to find out what the smell could be, I couldn’t help but examine the “new improved” menu: Frozen Yogurt, Breakfast Wraps, Pastries, and Pizza (of course, it was California, so they were called “flat breads”, but let’s be real – it’s pizza).

I laughed it off at first and jokingly contemplated ordering some type of PB & J wrap, but followed my instincts and ordered my usual healthy snack. Stepping aside to wait for it to be made, I was approached by a Smoothista informing me that they didn’t have all of the ingredients to make my drink. He asked me “What do you want us to do?”. I’m not sure what my reaction really was, but I’m sure I gave him quite a look back – he quickly suggested bananas as a substitute and I agreed “sure, that’s fine”.

As I watched him for at least 5 more minutes struggle to make this drink, I shook my head thinking “this is a smoothie shop, why is it so hard to get a smoothie?” After an unusually long wait, he presented my smoothie to me with an apology for the wait claiming it was “one of the hardest ones to make”. I smiled, successfully containing my laugh and quickly left. Perhaps he was new, but it was the first time I’ve ever seen anyone struggle to make a basic smoothie at a smoothie shop.

Just imagine this situation in the accounting world – can you imagine telling a client “we can’t complete this tax return by April 15th, what would you like us to do?” – of course not! They are paying you to perform a service for them, and counting on you to find a solution if there are any issues. At the same time, as a client, I’d never expect my CPA to be able to give me advice on purchasing a car, or diagnosing a medical condition, because I count on him to be my accountant…and want him to focus on being the best accountant he can be.

As so many firms look for ways to differentiate from the competition – one critical thing to remember: don’t ever lower your standards of excellence in order to add more to your menu…after all, smoothies and pizza really don’t mix.