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

Be Empowered

Before I was ever @XCMkim , ever sold a single scanner, or survived a pre-tax season outsourcing rush, I put myself through college as a professional “Miss Kim”. At the ripe old age of 12, I began what led to over a decade-long career babysitting. It’s probably no surprise that all these years later I’m a workaholic, because even back then the writing was on the walls. While most Jr. High, High School, and college students were off at homecoming, prom, football games, and frat parties, I was changing diapers, warming bottles, and reading Dr. Seuss to little munchkins – often 6 or 7 days a week. All the while saving every penny I could to buy a car at age 16, pay for college by age 18, and eventually a house by the time I was 23. Needless to say, I was a little girl on a mission – and I wasn’t going to let anything stand in the way of what I wanted.

My Miss Kim career culminated with an 18-month stint living with a family (while also maintaining my full-time job). So at 21 years old, I was a working second mommy to Mackenzi, Mason, Merek and Baby Madox. To this day, I often refer to my four little Ms as the best form of birth control ever. By far the biggest blessings that have come from that experience are the relationships I’ve built with those four little monkeys (now not so little). I’m fortunate to live close enough that I’m able to see them when I’m in town, and occasionally spend some quality time with them. I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to mentor these kiddos, and to share in the big moments in their lives. But along the way, they have managed to teach me a thing or two as well.

The other day I had to be run a few errands on a Saturday morning & knew I’d be driving by their house. Mackenzi, now 14 and wicked-smart, always makes a great errand buddy, so I gave her a call to see if she could join me for the quick trip. Without asking for details on the agenda, she accepted and was waiting at the foot of the driveway when I pulled in. She spent most of the drive updating me on her recent run for school president, and filling me in on the latest with her high school plans. As we pulled into the shopping center, she stopped mid-sentence and exclaimed “Miss Kim! You didn’t tell me we were going to a MALL, I didn’t bring my wallet with me!” She went on to tell me that she’s been babysitting a lot lately and also spent the previous week house-sitting for a neighbor. She had carefully saved a large percentage of her earnings, but had also set aside a small amount to buy something.

After taking care of my errands, we made our way to her favorite clothing store, where I told her if she found something I would happily buy it for her. To my surprise, my little over-achiever replied with something that I know must have come out of my mouth 15 year ago too “That’s OK, I really want to buy myself something – it will make me feel empowered!”

With her one-sentence remark, I was instantly reminded of the numerous conversations she and I have had over the years about working, saving, sometimes learning to accept defeat, but most importantly never giving up. At the same time that I was overwhelmed with pride, it brought me back to a day when I was 14, and often a tag-along errand buddy myself. Diligently saving my hard-earned money, and every so often, empowering myself as well. Thanks, Mackie – for reminding us all that we’re in charge of our own destiny – and the sky’s the limit when you feel empowered!

BeEmpowered