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

#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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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Stop & Smell the BBQ

One of the things I’m always trying to explain to people about my frequent travels is that regardless of where I go on my business trips – every city looks the same: airport, cab, hotel room, conference center. Whether I’m in North Platte, NE or Waikiki, Honolulu, HI – I tend to have about the same amount of free time to “explore”…none.

Every once in a while though, I feel like I hit the jackpot. Over the past year or so, I’ve been privileged to connect with some extra-gracious locals, who have taken the time out of their lives, to ensure that my visit isn’t “just another day at the office”.

My colleague, Rachel, and I spent this week in Kansas City (“Home of BBQ and Jazz”) for the kick-off of the Boomer Technology Circle meetings. I’ve attended several other Boomer events here in KC, and have still managed to see about the same amount of the place: Westin Crown Center, taxi cab, Jack Stack BBQ. This week however, we fell into a tub of BBQ sauce, thanks to Scott Morrill from Boomer. Along with one of the other sponsors, we were whisked out of the Crown Center and off to famous Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ – where you can eat your dinner in a gas station. On the way back, we took the scenic route, and he provided us a tour of the various city landmarks including the new Plaza, the WWI Liberty Memorial monument, and Union Station.

Last Summer, while Brian & I were visiting a firm in the Detroit area, we were honored when an executive cleared his Friday evening at home (a rare occurrence if you know his travel schedule), to spend it showing us around. After a great dinner and a trip to see the Woodward Dream Cruise pre-show, we took a detour and were treated to an incredible tour of Cranbrook, which boasts a campus filled with architecture to take your breath away and keep you talking about it for years.

To be filed in the “once in a lifetime” folder, on a visit to Honolulu for the Hawaii Society of CPAs annual conference (trust me, it was still a work trip, filled with frustrations, 4:30am conference calls, and missed flights), my new customers showed me the Royal Hawaiian treatment. Swooping in for me in Waikiki, we quickly made our escape, explaining that they only go downtown if they have to. We proceeded to drive up a mountain just as it started to pour down rain. Determined to show me their favorite lookout spot, we made it to the top, made the mad-dash to the side of the cliff, and captured the most beautiful rainbow spanning the entire island of Oahu. Afterward, they showed me a great time filled with dinner, donuts, and moochi, as we sampled all of their favorite local spots.

It’s funny how these three experiences seem so simple – all they did was spend an evening with us. Yet the effort from these individuals to provide us business tourists with a little glimpse of something that we surely would have missed without a local there to guide us makes these seemingly small gestures so hugely meaningful.

The Glamour of Modern Air Travel

Every time someone says to me “You’re so lucky! I wish I could travel for work as much as you do…”, I always seem to be able to convince them to retract their comment…I figured I might have enough material now for an actual post…I didn’t realize it would be so hard to choose my top 10!

  1. TSA. Need I say more? Oh, but I will! I think part of the Pre-Check interview should be a dry-run through an actual TSA lane just to make sure we don’t let the guy who can’t hang up the phone and still removes his shoes, liquids, coat, and iPad (which never should have come out even PRE-Pre-Check) and puts them in the bin he shouldn’t be using into the program.
  2. What Coffee? Is it a law that you cannot serve good coffee at airports? Even when I’m excited enough to find something non-Starbucks, I’m typically brought back to a harsh reality by their ability to ruin coffee. Am I the only one who thinks that there are few scenarios where getting a good java jolt could be more critical than prior to blast off?
  3. The Armrest Lifter: Do I mind? YES I mind! Armrests should not be optional – they should be required not only in coach, but also in the back seat of most family cars to avoid the inevitable sibling “he’s touching my side” bickering en route to school. I’ll gladly let you use BOTH of them just as long as my butt doesn’t have to touch yours. If I ran the aviation world, there would be an optional shock feature that you could activate when your seat-neighbor crossed that magic seat division line.
  4. INfrequent Flyers: This might sound harsh, and I realize not everyone boards 4 airplanes a week, but come on people…a little special awareness maybe? Oh, and that little note on your boarding pass that says “Zone 6” doesn’t give you permission to stand in the Premier Access boarding lane when they announce that Active Military Personnel may now board.
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  6. Oblivious Parents: Apparently to some, flight attendants are also babysitters. I’m always in awe when I see the single mom with three children put her ear buds in and pass out while the children race each other through the plane to the bathroom & back. Or perhaps my personal favorite, the father who’s so intently focused on his BlackBerry that he doesn’t notice (or care) his tantruming toddler next to him is screaming, convulsing, and kicking the seat in front of him from LAX to Atlanta (I’ll give you 3 guesses as to whose seat that was).
  7. Loud-Talking Sales Guy on Bluetooth in First Class: True Story – I once witnessed a man go from touchdown to live international sales WebEx presentation for GM executives before pulling into the gate. Sadly, he followed me right into the Untied club where he completed his pitch in the chair next to me. The poor woman trying to watch As the World Turns across from him muttered to me “I know more about what that guys does than I do about my husband’s work!”.
  8. Deplaning: Watching grown men mow-down elderly women and young children to beat them out the door. I typically lean to the woman next to me and whisper “his mother must be so proud”.
  9. Plane-side Luggage Valet: Apparently “line up against THIS wall” doesn’t translate into stupid, or doesn’t apply to the 6’3” 257lb. guy in a cheap suit who decides right in front of the 30-year-old business woman is the perfect spot to stand.
  10. Moving Sidewalks: Stand on the right. Walk on the left. By all means, let your children lie on the middle sprawled out with their backpack and rolly-bags that clearly weigh more than they do. It’s not like anyone is in a hurry to catch a flight around here.

Unplugged on Oahu

Sounds like a dream come true? Think again! Anyone who longs for a business trip to Hawaii (or any exotic destination for that matter) obviously hasn’t ever been on one of my island work adventures. Colleagues, family, and friends often tell me they’re envious of my travels. Unfortunately, at least in my experience, traveling off the mainland for work is no more enjoyable – but often a lot more frustrating – than any other business trip. Now before you call BS on me, let me just give you a glimpse into my little world a few weeks back as I traded in my stilettos for flip flops on my desperate search for power.

After a great-but-exhausting 5-days in Las Vegas for the first part of the week (if you missed my recap, see Hey, Baby – Let’s Go to Vegas!), my commute to Waikiki was extraordinarily crazy. Between the 4 ½-hour drive from Vegas, the 15-minute “layover” at home in OC, and my 1 ½-hour rush-hour drive to LAX, I arrived at the airport a cozy 30 minutes before my 6-hour flight to the beautiful island of Oahu. So, when I finally arrived at my hotel around 11pm local time (3 hours behind PDT), I was beyond wiped.

I managed to be pretty productive on the flight and cranked out proposals, contracts, and even a blog post. But as we approached the island, my battery read my mind and decided it was bedtime. When I got to my room, I quickly plugged in to release the emails I had drafted, but after the day I had just been through, I threw in the towel and decided to tackle the rest in the morning.

To my horror, I awoke not to the sound of waves outside my window, but to the sight of a low battery warning on my iPhone (which was charging from my laptop). I immediately realized that something was wrong, and my laptop wasn’t on. With my poor Ultra Book clocking as many frequent flyer miles as me, I’d been dealing with a temperamental power cord for weeks. Up until that point I had just managed to use the old “wiggle & twist” & “stick a wad of paper in there” tricks to keep things functioning. Not that day though. I was officially dead in the water.

I got creative, managing to use my iPad & iPhone for my morning calls & web meetings…of course, not thinking through the drain on their batteries while doing so. When I finally got a free window, I decided to trek out to the mall to see if I could hunt down a replacement charger. Several hours later, with a dead iPhone, dead iPad, and visit to three different stores, I returned to my hotel room victorious (Mahalo to Jared at Best Buy in Honolulu, my geek in a faded blue shirt, who saved my day & helped me ensure that the cord was the problem).

As I told this story to various people the past few weeks, the common reaction was an overly-sarcastic toned “Oh you poor thing, stuck in Hawaii with no laptop”. To which I can only reply that until you’ve been in my shoes, you’ll never know how bad it feels to be powerless trying to work on an Island.