My Trip to Austin

If I were to pick up my phone & ask Siri for directions to Austin, I’m fairly certain that an 8-hour round-trip drive in an “Ultimate Edition” through the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas & back is not the preferred route…but speaking from experience, it the most scenic ride (and it comes with a Cappuccino Heath Blizzard)!

VFMSBlizzard

It definitely took a while – so long that people were probably wondering if I’d ever make it after all – but I knew I’d get there exactly when I was supposed to, and that everything would turn out exactly as it should.

If you ask me, my trip to Austin started back on June 6, 2010 as a gracious industry colleague pulled up to my house and loaded a squeaky duffel into the trunk of his rental car & inquired “Do you think there’s a DQ between here & Vegas? I could really go for a Blizzard”…You could probably end the story there & say the rest is history.

It wasn’t until much later that I realized agreeing to drive across the desert with someone I barely knew, and had never spent any time with outside of business meetings, could have turned out VERY different…but after absolutely nailing our partner debut at AICPA Tech+ that week, our victory ride home turned into what we have always referred to as the 45 minute drive home from Vegas.

VFMSBK1

Now some might have a different perspective – I know my Mom & Grandma would likely say my trip to Austin took about 32 years, seeing as they’d been praying for my journey since July 7, 1983.

Of course, you could also say that it started on January 23, 2010, at P.F. Chang’s Irvine Spectrum of all places, where a few industry professionals gathered one Saturday evening to network (& the only notable request was “nothing fried, please”).

As with any trip, there were milestones along the way – things that stand out and stay etched in my memory as I look back on how far I’ve come…I’ll never forget October 17, 2010 – when I got chauffeured to the airport in the wee-hours of that Sunday morning, and as an added bonus, a fresh medium iced coffee from Peet’s, my favorite.

There were also some fairly traumatic stretches, like November 12, 2010, when I had to return the favor of an airport drop-off (and a detour to Dallas).

Two days later, on November 14, 2010, I was back on track & heading straight for my destination picking up speed & never looking back. I can honestly say that’s the day that my life changed forever, and I realized I was meant for Austin.

VFMSBK2

Fast forward four years – and a LOT of badgering from friends & colleagues – on December 13, 2014, my journey continued on foot. This time up the San Jacinto tramway out in the Coachella Valley, where I officially agreed to relocate (and picked up an amazing souvenir for doing so).

VFMSRing

8 months flew by, and on August 30, 2015, in Palm Springs, California, I finally pulled in at home. It had been an unconventional road to get there, filled with laughs, tears, struggles, and victories, but I wouldn’t trade a single moment for anything.

VFMSWater

I’m not quite sure how 2 years have gone by since I married my best friend, and became Mrs. Austin. It’s hands-down the greatest decision I’ve ever made. Not because life is perfect – goodness knows we’ve had our share of curveballs thrown at us – but because I know life’s highs couldn’t be half as great, and the lows might not be bearable without sharing the ride with Brian.

VFMSWindmills

As it turns out, a few things in life are actually more about the destination than the journey.

VFMSFamily

Happy 2nd Anniversary, Babe – now, let’s get some carrot cake!

#PSILoveYou

Advertisements

Fueled By Passion…Fulfilled by Performance

It’s Friday night, about 8pm Mountaint time, & I’m sitting in the Denver Airport United Club waiting on what’s turned into about a 3 hour flight delay. I should (hopefully) be home by midnight, but it’s unlikely any sooner…

In the last 18 days for work, I’ve been in 16 cities, driven well over 20 hours (across 5 states & 3 tropical islands) in 7 different cars, slept in 8 different hotels (and 1 airplane), been on 8 flights (and I still have 1 more to get home), spanned 4 time zones…and met with 17 firms & hosted 6 QuickBooks Online training events attended by over 100 accountants.

Oh, and did I mention I was home for a whopping 67 hours last week between trips?

Needless to say, my life has been an absolute whirlwind the past few weeks. I’ve had to make decisions like “do I care more about getting in a training session or cardio or sleep” (knowing I may only be getting 3-4 hours of sleep regardless). I’ve been on hold at 1am more than once with the United Premier desk trying desperately to figure out how to make it to my destination or home before midnight and without driving hours as my glass slipper gradually becomes a pumpkin. I’ve far exceeded the recommended dosage of protein bars & tuna packets (in my car racing from one meeting to another). I’ve fallen asleep more than once with my face in my laptop somewhere between 1am & 3am local time. My earliest (but not only pre-dawn) call was at 4:30am local time. And, I’ve managed to pack in more first-time meetings with new partners than I typically do in a month (or more).

Am I exhausted? Drained? Sleep deprived? In major need of a few days at home (and manicure)? Heck yeah – but am I energized and inspired by all of the amazing conversations and “light-bulb moments” that I’ve experienced in the past 3 weeks? HECK YEAH! These past few weeks have been an amazing reminder to me of why I do what I do – and why I push myself so hard.

K&HEmail

There’s a sign at my gym that reads, in part: “I’m obsessed, a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated”. I read it constantly when I’m training, and use it to motivate myself to push harder, lift heavier, go faster…but recently I’ve been thinking of that even outside of the gym. It’s really become part of my core, part of my why.

After making the 90 minute drive from a firm in Northern Utah this afternoon, my last meeting of the trip, I arrived at the airport to this message from them in my email:

AJEmail

I had so many similar conversations with partners I’ve been meeting with that it’s impossible to even think of slowing down. Those conversations and their excitement has propelled me into my next non-stop day & I’m so excited to keep turning on the gas over the next few months.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a husband & family that enable me to put my career and my partners so high on my priority list. I honestly couldn’t do what I do on the road without my life-line back home. We’ve made a commitment to each other to support both of our careers, and have adopted a “work-life integration” motto (thanks for the term, Ed Kless). I never feel that I’m taking away from my home life by putting so much of myself into work – instead, I’ve got a built-in motivator cheering me on (and me him) each step of the way.

Throughout these daunting marathon days, as I’d drive from meeting to meeting, to hotel, to airport, I got to share the great news of another awesome visit. Each time I was reminded (as usual) that it’s moments like those that motivate me to keep going, and affirm why every flight, every mile, every early morning, and every tuna packet are just adding fuel to my fire.

Cherish the Moments

I wish I could say I didn’t need that reminder, but I think once in a while, we all probably do. I’ve always been a self-proclaimed workaholic – and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as I keep my priorities in order. As TSheets ran their #MinutestoMoments campaign this holiday season, I’ve found myself stopping a little more here & there & really focusing on why I work as hard as I do, and ensuring I put the same amount of passion & effort into the non-work areas of my life too.

I feel like I blinked and 2016 is gone – heck, the last time I even blogged was in August, and I’m pretty sure I said the same thing about a year of being married passing by so fast. For the most part, I feel like I’m pretty good at living in the moment & not constantly wishing for days to go by, but this year especially, I got glimpses of exactly why that is so important…

I remember last New Year’s Eve driving up to see my little nephew & spending what turned out to be the last day of his only-child life with him while my sister-in-law got some last minute baby-prep done at home. Little did we know, that January 1 would never be the same for our family…now New Year’s Day fireworks will always be “Happy Birthday Oliver” fireworks for us.

picture1onh

As a married couple, we’re two for two. A few weeks after celebrating our first anniversary, we unplugged (mostly) and escaped for some R&R in Hawaii. I can say that spending 5 days with my best friend in one of our favorite places on earth brought several memorable moments to add to our collection.

picture2bk

As work continued to be as busy as ever, it was also one of the most rewarding years of my career. Our typical slow season while accountants are busy with taxes turned into the busiest season to date for our Business Development team. That rolled into a crazy summer, followed by a hectic fall, which culminated with a trip to New York courtesy of Intuit celebrating our successes with Brad & company. It was such an amazing chance to reflect on the blood, sweat & tears (literally) that the past 3 years have brought. As we circled the statue of Liberty that October evening, all that work became worth it in that moment.

picture3kabs

Sometimes you don’t realize how important moments are until after they happen…In November, I was asked to speak at a conference over a weekend, and it meant I would have 36 hours to kill somewhere between Chicago & Atlanta. I decided to head to Detroit to visit my Grandma & took the chance to go see my other grandparents while I was in town. Little did I know it would be the last time I got to see my Grandma Jan, as she passed away just weeks after my visit. The sense of peace I had in knowing that I took the time to go share some laughs & hugs with her will be something I’m grateful for as long as I live.

picture4kjan

I couldn’t do what I do day-in & day-out if it wasn’t for my amazing support system of (work) friends. As Gail Perry pointed out, the only down-side of the holiday break is that we have to go so long without seeing each other. From early morning on-the-road workouts with Kelly (#FriendsThatLift), unexpected dinners in Vegas with Donny & Chelsey, Philz runs with Seth, countless adventures with so many others, and above all this year watching our entire accounting community rally around Matt Rissell. There are too many moments to list, but I’m thankful they’re all etched in my mind.

This holiday season was one where I chose to go offline for the most part. I could blame it all on spending 24+ hours in the kitchen over Christmas week making family dinners two weeks in a row, but honestly it was also intentional. It was so great to put the phone away, not even open Facebook, and spend some time with my boys. We don’t get nearly enough quality time with our son, but over Christmas we made epic breakfast sandwiches, his favorite snickerdoodle brownies, there were new Nikes all around, and we even got in a family workout. I was on cloud 9, and I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.

picture8family

As I look back on this year, it’s easy to see why the reminder is needed. Life tends to fly by all around me and at times the only thing I can do is keep going for fear that if I stop I’ll never get caught back up again. So as we welcome in 2017, my goal is to remember to really cherish each moment, whether it’s work or play. I’ll always be a workaholic, but I will also be a wifeaholic, step-momaholic, auntaholic, and friendaholic. I have a feeling I’ll be putting my new workout gear to good use this coming year, because things aren’t slowing down one bit!

Wishing you & yours a very Happy New Year & all the best in 2017!

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.

Score

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.

Soccer

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

katiemcgihon-270

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”.

Avacake

F is for Family

katiemcgihon-86

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.

katiemcgihon-70

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!

11944911_10153182437532992_995401671_n

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.

katiemcgihon-59

H is for Home

IMG_6465

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

IMG_6116

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

katiemcgihon-317

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

IMG_6110.jpg

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

katiemcgihon-236

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

#FriendsThatLift

This past week was a whirlwind trip to #QBConnect…an amazing time with so many awesome people. I knew before I left that I would blog about the trip, but it wasn’t until Wednesday night that I realized it wouldn’t be a real QBC 2015 blog without it including Kelly Bistriceanu (Kelly B to some of us). So we got together & jotted down our thoughts on how we got through the last crazy week. Without further adieu, here you have, a View From OUR Shoes…

We’ve both been on the road nonstop for weeks, and constantly doing “the best we can” to stick to our programs – eat right, sleep enough, workout as much as possible. But anyone who travels like we do knows how difficult this can be during conferences.

CTEj0UlUsAAz-ek.jpg-large

We’ve traveled together enough to know that it’s entirely possible to implement the buddy system for the greater good. Instead of slacking off together, sleeping in & sneaking back to our room with dessert, we’ve often held each other accountable and gotten up before the sun to get in our morning workouts, and have made many impromptu Trader Joe’s/ Whole Foods pit stops to ensure we’re sticking to our healthy eating plan. Heck, even when we’re not together we still manage to spur each other on.

txtphoto

It’s always possible, it just requires a little planning & a lot of commitment. Our #QBConnect plan of attack actually started weeks ago, as we emailed & texted each other, strategizing about shelf-stable portable meal ideas to take with us in the car for our 10+ hour journey to San Jose. We even spent our weekend in Palm Springs in the gym getting pumped up for the big show…

CSrIfvwUwAAlSZn.jpg-large

We were prepared to succeed and we stuck together to make it happen. #QBConnectOrBust didn’t have to bust our program.

Looking back on the past year, working out & eating right are just two examples of the Kelly & Kim strategy to building a solid partnership. It is our work worlds that have brought us together, after all, and we’ve taken full advantage of that whenever possible. From mutual introductions to industry contacts, to co-presenting at national accounting firms, to driving across the country to meet with more firms, to Friday night email conversations, to weekend strategy calls in airports while traveling to our next event, the partnership we’ve built has evolved from professional colleagues to “work friends”, and ultimately friends – no strings attached.

CSvqIwzU8AA4K2K.jpg-large

As hectic as life on the road can be, having someone who’s there to lift you up (or wake you up), bring you coffee (or pre-workout), give you a hug (or share a backseat of an SUV for almost 11 hours), and cheer you on to the finish line (or crawl over it right next to you), can be the most amazing gift. In a world where so many people try to keep personal-life/ work-life in two distinct boxes, for us there’s really no separation of the two. Now that we’ve helped each other survive & thrive when it’s needed most, we’ll always be #FriendsThatLift.

CSvRBW2UkAAm5Sq.jpg-large

About Kelly…

Kelly Bistriceanu is the Accountant Program Director at TSheets Time Tracking.  An avid competitive runner, fitness competitor and group exercise instructor, Kelly thrives personally and professionally by ensuring her passion for fitness integrates seamlessly into her road warrior life style. When not traveling the globe, helping accounting professionals become successful TSheets PROs, Kelly and her husband Daniel call beautiful Boise, Idaho home base.  Follow Kelly’s #TSheetsWorldTour adventures on twitter and Instagram @KellyTSheets.