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

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!