Sprinting to the Finish

I suppose it’s fitting that I spent the final day of the busiest Xpitax/ XCM quarter of the year the same place that I started it – and the same place I spent all but two of the past 17 weeks – on airplanes. What I wasn’t counting on was a first (even for me) ever barefoot 100 meter dash through John Wayne airport. I’m pretty sure I could have kept pace with Michael Johnson in his fancy golden shoes. It’s safe to say that I plan to avoid 6:45am flights this next quarter. It’s also safe to say that I have thoroughly cleaned and sanitized both my feet as well as the inside of my heels.

When you’re as much of a plane warrior as I am, you have to adapt to the road and learn how to make constant chaos your new “normal”. One thing I’ve learned the past three months is that no amount of pre-planning can make up for the accident on the freeway en-route to the airport, or the fact that there are only three (3) taxis in Yakima, Washington (and they don’t like working after midnight), or the rental car worker who decided not to wait up for the delayed flight…sometimes you’ve just got to roll with it (I promise, that is much easier said than done).

When I started at Fujitsu over three years ago, I got some great advice from a colleague who put his arm around me and told me “Kiddo, pace yourself – if you don’t, you’ll burn out”. Boy did I think of that conversation over & over the past three months! Little did I know back then just how much I would rely on those words of wisdom in my next career chapter. It’s amazing how true this is not only in business, but in life in general. For people pleasers like me, learning to pace ourselves, not take on too much, and most importantly, not spread ourselves too thin so that we can’t do anything well, is vital not only to our success, but to our survival.

I’m so proud to be a part of the XCM & Xpitax team as we continue to set new records for both organizations. I’m even more proud to know I’m playing a part in hitting those marks, and pushing us to the next level. While I’d love to stand up and do the “XCM Quarter Three is Over” victory dance & celebrate the milestones that we’ve achieved – I don’t even know that I have the energy to do so…I’m feeling a bit more like Kerri Strug in Atlanta – raising my hands in victory, and limping off to recover.

So as January comes to a close, and we turn the page into February, it’s with great pleasure that I now hand off the baton to my clients – get ready, folks, it’s your turn to run the tax season race now! I’ll be here cheering you on, dropping by hugs and coffee and other necessities. We know you can do it…just remember to pace yourself!

Everyone Should Have a Kelda

In my role at XCM and Xpitax, I have the pleasure of traveling all over the Western U.S. visiting accounting firms. It’s always fun to see all the different shapes and sized in which firms come. One firm I visited had adorned their office with their extensive antique abacus collection. Another recent visit led me to the 24th floor of a Honolulu high-rise with a breathtaking view of the coast of O’ahu. On one of my last journeys to Northern California, I found myself dashing from one meeting in bustling downtown San Jose to an appointment in the quiet and quant little town of San Rafael (where they told us a story of the time they had a cow wander into their parking lot). I love seeing all these different personalities that show through the various organizations – all tied together by the fact that each of them serves as their clients’ CPA.

One morning, during one of my multi-city road trips, I got an email from a woman at a firm…her name was Kelda. Kelda’s email began with a brief introduction of herself and her firm, and explained that she had recently spoken with one of my colleagues who had referred her my way. Her concise but detailed email efficiently communicated that her partners were interested in meeting with me, and that she was aware I was in their area that week. In closing, she suggested a few days & times that week, and promised a follow up via telephone as well. Shortly thereafter, I got a voicemail from Kelda.

With my crazy schedule that day, we traded a few voicemails and emails before actually connecting live. When we finally did speak, I was pretty blown away by both her professionalism and her organization. She explained that the two Partners were going to be on a tight schedule, so she would be ordering in lunch during our meeting. She also gave me detailed instructions on where I would find parking, and how long she anticipated it would take to travel from my current location to their office.

When I arrived at their office (and found a spot right out front as she promised), I was greeted at the top of their stairs by Kelda, who was holding not only her business card, but the cards of the two Partners with whom I was meeting. She then had me escorted into their conference room, where I was again further impressed. Lunch was not only delivered, but everyone’s assigned places were set – with silverware rolled up into a tidy napkin as if we were dining in a little sidewalk café.

Upon the end of our scheduled time, we heard a quiet knock on the door – it was Kelda, there to remind the Managing Partner that his next appointment was approaching and he’d need to wrap up. As he walked out of the room, I stood up to say goodbye and added “I’ll make you a deal – I’ll take Kelda and you can have XCM”. Both Partners smiled and even chuckled a bit as they replied “Over our dead bodies”.
In reality, there weren’t any real mind-boggling acts performed that day. I mean, even I can order lunch and walk someone to a conference room. And yet I left that small firm in Palo Alto, California thinking to myself, “Wow, if they went to all that trouble for a software vendor – imagine what type of impression that makes on their clients”. I’ve told the story of Kelda to several people since then, which proves my point even more. Sometimes it’s the littlest details that make the biggest impression on people.

It’s a Small World After All…

When I came onboard with XCM and Xpitax this past Summer, I was quite familiar with the XCM workflow solution itself as well as with most of the team. I had spent time with them at various trade shows, and worked with them as fellow partners in CloudSolutions Alliance. The side of the house that I was less familiar with was our Xpitax outsourced accounting services business – and the international team behind those services.

I’ve since come to learn that in addition to our team in Braintree (and the handful of remote folks throughout the US), I have the pleasure of calling another group -developers and tax professionals from our Chennai and Bangalore offices – fellow Xpitax colleagues as well.

During my first few weeks on the job, I asked a lot of questions about the international Xpitax team. Who are they? Does the same team work with one client or is it more like a call center environment? What are the conditions like in our India offices? How do our clients communicate with our team in India? I was definitely feeling a bit out of my element, and a tad unsure of exactly how to explain the way our outsourcing model really works…mostly because it was just a big unknown. Naturally, most of us don’t care too much for the unknown, so I figured if I need to sell these services, first I have to believe in the model myself – which means get educated.

Well a few weeks ago the world got a little bit smaller. After a recent trip to India, our Founder and CEO (yes, Professor Workflow himself, Mark Albrecht) addressed our U.S. team with a plea to unify our multiple offices. With that in mind, our VP of Client Services, Colleen Osborne (with some help from Facebook), created an interactive platform for our teams to communicate, share photos & ideas, and learn about each other. I’m sure some might say I’m just easily amused, but seeing photos of our team and having the opportunity to wish them a happy holiday (last month they celebrated Vinayaka Chathurthi, a national holiday in India) completely brought these people to life, and gave me a whole new perspective on this part of our company.

Just as important, it proved once again that technology can truly bridge the gap in physical miles – and even time zones. Without platforms like Facebook, the Xpitax team would still be a list of emails in our Outlook contact group “Chennai”, but with the medium to interact with them, I’ve begun to make a whole new set of friends. Likewise, without solutions like XCM, the outsourcing model of Xpitax wouldn’t be anywhere nearly as successful as it is today, where an accounting firm can track the status, open points, estimated completion date, number of open items remaining, and several other elements of any outsourced return, anytime (most firms don’t even have that much control over returns or projects inside their own firms, let alone one that is being completed by someone half-way around the globe). With Cloud-based tools like these, geography instantly becomes a non-issue, and productivity becomes the big priority.

With the launching of the new Xpitax Facebook group, I decided to post some photos from a recent company outing we had in Cape Cod, figuring it would give the India teams a chance to see some of us outside of the typical work setting. I was caught by surprise (in a great way) when photos appeared just hours later showing Colleen and a few of the folks from the team in India at the beach during her recent visit. I guess the old adage is true – it really is a Small World After All!