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

QBConnectOrBust 2015 copy

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

Avalara

Kelly Bistriceanu | The Party Starter | @KellyTSheets

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Gail Perry | The Documentarian | @GaPerry

CPA-Practice-Advisor

Jan Haugo | The Troublemaker | @JazFun

ICB

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.
  5. This space intentionally left blank for Stacy Kildal’s contribution.
  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.

The Trouble with Technology

I make a living selling technology. I’m passionate about the fact that technology is changing the world for the better, and I’m proud to say that I have a front row seat to watch tomorrow’s technology become today’s reality. Numbers don’t lie. When we survey XCM users each year after the busyness of tax season, we are thrilled to hear that our technology often saves our clients well over an hour a day per person. On the Xpitax side, without both scanning and Cloud technologies, this outsourcing model would be impossible. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to find anything to complain about as far as technology goes…or is it?

**Warning – I’m officially standing on my soapbox in my stilettos**

Let’s be real for a minute – who are we kidding? We all deal with technology trials and tribulations virtually every day. How often are you tempted to throw your iPhone across the room when you’ve dropped a call for the 3rd time in 10 minutes (not to mention that you were still talking for 2 minutes before realizing the like was dead)? Sure it’s great that you can book your airline reservations from the amazing little device, but sometime you just simply want to make a phone call. How about those web-based training sessions that you’re struggling to understand because you can only catch every third word of the presenter and his slide deck is moving about 28 seconds slower than his talk track? Why do we all just accept this as “normal” and go about our business pretending it isn’t a problem? It IS a problem, because it keeps us from concentrating on our main goal.

From my shoes, I see two main issues with technology:

  1. Technology isn’t fail-proof, so when looking to put your best foot forward, relying on it is risky
  2. There’s just no substitute for face time

As technology advances and enable us to have more access to information when & where we need it, typically as automated as we want it, we are able to be more productive as we adopt the “self-service” approach. I know I use this every day when it comes to tracking packages online, paying bills, booking travel arrangements, and numerous other areas of personal and professional life. The danger comes when this dependence on using technology takes over the desire to have human interaction, and foster relationships with clients, colleagues, and partners.

Video, web, and teleconferencing services are in surplus these days – and the ability to
connect with clients, prospects, and even friends and family via GoToMeeting, WebEx, or Skype can shrink the distance between two individuals. These technologies allow me to start a Friday morning on a team call with my colleagues around the country, to present Xpitax to a firm in Nevada in the early afternoon, and to meet with a local SoCal accounting firm and show XCM for Client Accounting Services all in the same day – all without leaving my “soffice” (Sofa+Office). But what do I give up by not being in person at these various meetings? And what happens when the technology I’m relying on lets me down?

I sat in a board room this past week at a very large accounting firm in the Midwest. While I made the effort to fly out and be on-site for the meeting, I relied on web telephone conferencing to include my President in the meeting with me. By the end of the meeting, we had reconnected the web conference twice, and redialed into the teleconference three times. Needless to say, the flaws in technology were not only distracting, but extremely stressful too.

The saving grace was my ability to interact with the group inside the room, to make eye contact, read body language, and even poke fun and make light of the frustrating technology failure. Thankfully, the meeting was still a success, but had I not been there in person, it might have had a different outcome.

As the world seems to move faster & faster each day, it’s so important that we do step back and remember that deep down, we all value personal interactions. Sure it’s easy to sit back and say that it’s more productive to conduct business from your comfy office chair…but don’t underestimate the power of a real handshake. Shortly after starting at XCM I had the opportunity to visit two prospects in New York – both were very busy, but agreed to my visit. I have no doubt that the relationships I started building that week will continue to be vital to the future success of these two clients. As I arrived home late that Friday afternoon, I had a voicemail from one of the firms I had met with. The message said something like “I wanted to call you and give you the good news – because you were the one who showed up at our office…”.

So don’t be afraid of a little TSA pat down – before you know it you’ll sporting premier hotel status and plenty of airline miles to boot…go out and build those relationships – maybe I’ll see you on the road (I’m the one with the bag full of shoes).