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

Growing Tomorrow’s Small Business Ecosystem

Millennials, schmillennials! For all the bad reputations today’s teenagers and young adults get (and some for good reason), last month my friend & colleague, Valerie Heckman and I had the privilege (and yes, it was definitely a privilege) of spending a day with 13 youngsters who will be running tomorrow’s SMB universe.

A few months ago, one of my national firms, Kellogg & Andelson in Woodland Hills, CA, shared with me that each year they host a Summer Internship program where they bring in a handful of high school students from the local Granada Hills Charter High School. Lorene Dixon, the VP over Bookkeeping at the firm, who is extremely active with the school, started this program as a way to give local high school students the opportunity to spend a week inside the firm to get their feet wet, and most importantly, to come out with a sellable skill. Her dream is to one day get a resume from one of these students after they graduate from college, and come back for a job at the firm.

Traditionally, she’s used part of the week to train the students on QuickBooks. As she’s moved her own clients over to QuickBooks Online this past year, she knew that in order to provide this year’s interns with the best possible skill set, the focus needed to be on the cloud. She asked if Valerie and I would be willing to come in and present QBO – and that’s just what we did.

With Intuit putting such a high value on serving our communities through our We Care and Give Back initiatives, I was thrilled and honored to be a part of this program. As is so typical when you find yourself in any sort of service role, I know we got so much more out of this experience than we gave. As Valerie said, “I absolutely loved the opportunity to show QuickBooks Online to this eager group of teenagers. Their reactions, their questions, and the stars in their eyes reaffirmed what I already know: QBO is designed for the firm of the future. You really can’t get more ‘firm of the future’ than a group of 16 and 17 year olds that are already interning at one! It’s exciting to think about how much we’ve grown as a culture in recent history so much so that the expectations they have as they enter the workforce are far different than what mine were and I’m only a little over a decade older than them. I find it thrilling that we at Intuit can and will continue to grow QBO to fit the needs of all generations of accountants and small businesses. Can’t wait to see where we’re headed”.

I have no doubt that our “baby sharks” (as Valerie dubbed them) will grow into future small business owners, accountants, app developers, and, maybe even an Intuit BDM and Product Specialist. These kids, or young adults I should say, were not your typical high schoolers. I didn’t see or hear a single cell phone, didn’t get one hint of adolescent attitude (not even when we got on our soapbox about what they should and should NOT post on Instagram, Facebook, and SnapChat). We almost forgot we were talking to teenagers until we asked them who had a bank account and not a single hand went up.

Their eagerness was motivating even to us. When we wrapped up the day, we had several students ask us how they could become QBO certified and where they could sign up to be a ProAdvisor. I encouraged them to start building their network that very day, and told them LinkedIn should be an app on their iPhones. That afternoon as we drove out of the parking lot, Val and I lit up when we both received a LinkedIn request from one of the students…she had gone straight home and built a pretty darn impressive profile. Her job experience? Intern at Kellogg & Andelson.

For as fast as we all run, as many planes we get on and typically feel like we’re never going to catch up…it was such an amazing experience to spend a few hours with this group – thank you, guys, for reminding us how important and rewarding it is to invest in our future. Don’t forget to come find me when you’re running the world some day! Go get ‘em!

KA

Live from #TurboTaxLifeLine 2015

This week I had an amazing opportunity to join the TurboTax social team in San Diego for what Intuit calls “LifeLine”…the final push before tax day where Intuit employees gathered to help answer the thousands (and thousands) of last minute questions from customers before the filing deadline. I was asked to blog live from the front lines, and my updates were posted on Insights (Intuit’s intranet) and sent out via SNAP (Intuit’s internal newsletter). I thought it was such a great experience that I had to share it here too…

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I started yesterday (Monday) morning at 5am with a text exchange with fellow colleague Madeline Reeves (who was also here at LifeLine today) about how hard it was to get up so early & commute down to San Diego today (her from Seattle, me from Palm Springs)…after spending the day with the LifeLine team, I realize just how worth it that early morning was.

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One of the highlights was sitting at the Social Team table with Jim McGinnis & Ken Wach – two Intuit VPs who surely could have said they had more important things to do than answer TurboTax customer questions…but there they were, sleeves rolled up, right with the rest of us. It was also humbling to see that in the midst of the numerous questions about why returns were $29.99 instead of free, or how they can get their money back for the duplicate TT purchase they made, there were questions that we were able to answer that somehow felt like we were making our customers’ life a little easier.

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As a remote employee, I miss most of the holiday parties, costume contests, and sadly, sometimes camaraderie…but today I felt like we all came together to Deliver Awesome to our customers.

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Wednesday, April 15, 1:37am

#TurboTaxLifeLine – Day 2

If Monday was a LONG day…the word for Tuesday was hectic!

Tuesdays in our AAG world are known as #TSheetsTuesday. One of our highest rated QuickBooks Online App partners, TSheets Time Tracking, has created a “can you top this” atmosphere where Intuit employees, partners, and ProAdvisors try to one-up each other each week with the best TSheets Tuesday photos featuring their trademark “supersoft Tshirts”. Yesterday, team AAG got to bring TSheets Tuesday to #TurboTaxLifeLine here in San Diego, and present Scott Cook with his first TSheets Tshirt.

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Since Starting at Intuit 18 months ago, I’ve repeatedly been impressed by our leadership team’s “do as I say AND as I do” attitude, which always inspires me. I mentioned Monday how much it meant to see Jim McGinnis & Ken Wach in the trenches with us. Yesterday the cafeteria was packed again with employees from all over the place, uniting for one common cause: to do the nation’s taxes. I was honored to have the chance to personally thank Scott for setting the example for us and showing us how we win together. Just like a proud dad, he beamed back at me and said “well, our customers need us this week more than ever” and off we went, back to the AnswerXchange queue to see if we could delight another TurboTax customer.

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In a company as big at Intuit – it’s so easy to feel like you’re such a tiny part of the big picture…but Tuesday we had this huge reminder that we’re all #OneIntuit.

Wednesday, April 15, 10:29am

Coffee!

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It’s officially TDay – the mood (and the music) is more tense today. Even the social table could be mistaken for the “anti-social table”. Lots of heads down. We’re in the home stretch, and the suggestion board sums up my thoughts quite nicely. I think the whole San Diego LifeLine crew is running on coffee and passion to deliver awesome to our customers – one more day, team!

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Thursday, April 16, 9:45am

Perspective. Exhaustion. Empathy. Gratitude.

I can sum up my lifeline experience in those four words.

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Coming from the QuickBooks world, I now have a new perspective on the role that our TurboTax care team plays – especially leading up to Tax Day. Having never been on the front line before, I had no idea the sheer volume, nor the vast array of topics that our customers struggle with to do their taxes. While some companies might feel that determining the depreciation schedule for chicken coops, whether someone should or shouldn’t be paying tax in Yonkers, or how to account for the $8,000 that a student earned from his father last Summer is not a software company’s problem, Intuit brought all hands on deck (including experts for each state), and did everything we could to help each and every one of them.

April 15 is sort of like the marathon finish line for most of my partners. They finally make it, but celebrating is the last thing on their mind – sleep is first. They’re exhausted. April 16 is a day of recovery for most tax accountants. With my partners, most of the last four weeks has sounded something like “That will be great, let’s talk after April 15”. This year, I finally understand (in a very small way) what that must feel like. We had agents chatting away until 9pm last night…it almost felt like a New Year’s Eve countdown…thank goodness it didn’t have to wait until midnight (everyone might have fallen asleep).

After this week, I have a new dose of empathy for my firms & what they go through. Yes, I only spent 3 days at LifeLine, but it makes me feel like I’ve lived in their shoes even if it’s for a short time. The pressure and the pace were just mini-windows into the end of tax season, and now I know exactly how my firms must feel.

Finally, I am so filled with gratitude to Intuit, and to the team who does this full time. I’m thankful that we have agents who sift through these questions and help these customers all day, every day. I’m grateful that our company chose to give the rest of us a chance to ride along for the week and see how it’s done. And I’m thrilled to have the chance to share it with all my colleagues and recommend LifeLine to anyone who has the opportunity to do it next year. I’ll happily save a seat for you.

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Going the Extra 1,000 Miles

With a quick glance at my Twitter feed, you’ll find out pretty quickly that I’m extremely passionate about customer service. I probably choose to exercise my Twitter voice a tad too often when I’m frustrated by any of my frequent vendors, or receive poor service in general…and I know I’ve already blogged about the topic here too. But it’s a two-way street – I expect and expect to provide others with exceptional experiences. It’s part of why I feel working at Intuit fits me so well – after all, our final core value is Deliver Awesome.

When I personally experience a disappointing customer experience, I often find that the way it’s handled is even more of what sticks out in my mind than the initial problem in general. For example, I was recently mischarged at CVS for a few items (nothing earth shattering, but it was more the principle of it), and hadn’t caught it until I was already home and on my way out of town. I brought in my receipt when I got back, and explained what happened. While the woman did refund my money (finally, after an argument about it), she made me feel so stupid and frustrated that while I got my $10, the experience was far more expensive & I left a frustrated customer really questioning whether I wanted to shop there going forward (after all, there’s a Walgreens down the street). Or on a recent flight delay, I finally argued United into Super-Shuttling me home instead of making me stay at LAX (25 minute flight from Palm Springs) overnight, but not after they gave me such an attitude that I actually Tweeted to American Airlines asking if they would match my United status.

I sometimes feel like a broken record talking about how proud I am to be wearing Intuit Blue and representing a company who puts Employees and Customers so high up on their priority list. This past month, however, I’ve been involved in a situation that takes that pride to the next level and beyond.

The scenario starts off with every employee’s worst nightmare – a partner, and their customer, having major problems and unable to get straight answers from support. To add insult to injury, there was a delay in getting an escalated support agent in touch with them. I’ll just come out and say it – it was bad. I was mortified that balls were dropped, and absolutely fell on my sword with my partner accepting full responsibility for the delay, and the poor experience.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, all of this culminated the Friday night before Christmas…but that’s actually where the story starts getting good. Around 5pm local time, I had a VP at Intuit on the phone, walking the halls of the office, recruiting an army to fix it.

I’d love to say it was an easy fix – and that by Monday morning that next week they were up and running, but that’s not how it went. If you fast forward – you’ll skip through multiple hospital visits (don’t ask), numerous long nights & weekends worked (including middle-of-the-night file imports), several holidays ignored to ensure deadlines were hit, and a plethora of other bumps in the road…all with one goal in mind: Deliver Awesome to this customer.

No, we couldn’t make up for the poor initial experience, nor could we snap our fingers and make this particular problem go away, but what we could do is provide our partner & customer with the determination to get them back up and running and not give up on them. After one of our numerous status calls, I wound up in a back & forth conversation with our Care Leader who’s been spearheading this operation – and I told him then how much I knew he’d done – and appreciated him & the team so much. I couldn’t help but feel, in the midst of this nightmare, so much pride to be on their team. We jokingly asked each other about a theme song for this entire project – his suggestion seemed too fitting to argue – he and the team have definitely gone the extra 500 miles – and 500 more!

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!