Welcome back to our Firm of the Future profile series about thriving firms who are benefitting from the cloud and QuickBooks® Online Accountant (QBOA) to better serve clients and find new revenue opportunities. In this new article, we spotlight Caleb Jenkins, EA, of RLJ Financial Services.
Mindy King: Tell us about your accounting and tax practice.
Caleb Jenkins: In 1986, about 32 years ago, which was long before I made my appearance in this world, my father started RLJ Financial Services, Inc. We primarily serve medical- and agricultural-based clients. Our services include tax preparation, tax planning and strategizing, outsourced accounting/bookkeeping, outsourced payroll, and wealth management and financial planning.
MK: How long have you been using QBOA?
CJ: In 2016, we started transitioning our client base from QuickBooks Desktop to QBO. The biggest hesitation among a lot of our clients to transitioning used to be multi-company situations, but when Intuit® introduced QBO multi-company discounts in summer 2017, we transitioned many of our desktop clients to QBO. We still have some work to do to become 100 percent cloud-based, but it is my goal to be there in a few years. You might be interesting in watching an interview I did recently with one of my small business clients and Robbie Randall who is with Intuit ProConnect™.
MK: What convinced you to move to QBOA?
CJ: I first got excited about QBO based on the inspiration of accounting industry thought leaders such as Joe Woodard, Doug Sleeter, Michelle Long and others who were all pushing QBO as the future of accounting. When I started to use it for a number of clients, I loved the simplicity of the layout and design of QBO (which keeps getting better) because it made it extremely easy to teach a new business owner how to use QuickBooks. What used to two to three hours to cover the basics of QuickBooks Desktop can now be done in one hour with QBO. I also loved the simplicity of bank feeds for checking, savings and credit cards, which automates up to 60 percent of the data entry that used to be necessary with the desktop product.
I also started implementing third-party apps for clients, including TSheets by QuickBooks, Bill.com and Receipt Bank, and realized the value of the platform as an ecosystem, kind of like QBO vs. the platform as a one-stop accounting software. One of the best benefits is anywhere, anytime, any-device access to our clients’ books. The ability to see what is happening at any time for our clients is tremendous. Instead of answering theoretically about a situation when they call/email, we can open up their QBO file and answer very specifically about what they need.
MK: I understand you use Intuit ProConnect Lacerte®. What are some other ways your tax practice and clients benefit from your firm embracing the cloud?
CJ: We love features like Google Forms and Intuit Link, which allow us to collaborate with our clients, and retrieve their documents and information for tax returns and accounting. This can be extremely helpful to eliminate multiple requests via email for the same pieces of information. We also use Zoom for a lot of client meetings to avoid the hassle of in-office appointments. This can be especially helpful for education purposes; we can record those sessions and share the recordings with our clients.
MK: What are your goals for your practice this year?
CJ: I want to continue to push the complete transition to the cloud so that we can access everything from any device, wherever we are. I also want to continue the transition away from after-the-fact bookkeeping/tax returns to a forward-looking tax planning and business coaching perspective. Finally, I want to set up our firm so that we can transition to a remote office platform in the future.
MK: What’s your favorite away-from-the-office place to get work done?
CJ: I typically do quite a bit of work from home. I have my room set up with a nice workstation that makes it easier to get work done. If I’ve got a QBO project that needs finishing after I leave work, I can complete it at home in the evening or on the weekend.
MK: Where’s the craziest place that you’ve done work for a client?
CJ: I spend quite a bit of time on airplanes, so I typically respond to emails, write articles and get caught up on various projects while flying. However, the craziest place that I’ve worked on a client’s books would have to be in the mountains in Haiti. I do volunteer work with a non-profit ministry that works in lots of developing countries, and on one of my trips to Haiti, a client emailed me about something that needed processing before I returned. I didn’t have anyone else on our team at the time who could work on the project that needed completing, so I spent an evening with a very limited wireless connection working on a client’s QBO file. Here is more information about my volunteer work in Haiti.
MK: What’s your number one timesaving tip?
CJ: Use multiple monitors. I can’t imagine going back to a day with only one computer monitor. I have four monitors at my workstation at the office, and it is extremely helpful to have QBO open on the first screen, 2017 tax software on the second screen, 2016 tax software on the third screen, and then have the fourth screen available for email, calendar, practice management and more.
MK: When you’re not working, what is your favorite thing to do?
CJ: I love helping and serving others, so I spend quite a bit of time on the weekends and in the evenings doing volunteer work for the ministry in Haiti and doing volunteer work for a prison ministry that helps inmates who are incarcerated in California. That doesn’t leave me a lot of time for other pursuits, but when I slip away from the busy-ness of life, I love to go backpacking and hiking with my friends. I recently did some hiking in southern Idaho with friends for a trip after tax season.
MK: What advice do you have for your peers who are still on desktop?
CJ: My recommendation would be to spend some time learning the benefits of cloud products, such as security, anywhere/anytime/any device access, automation of data entry and more. Do some research on your client base and figure out how to make the transition the most feasible. Then, work with some of your most tech-savvy clients and ask them if they’d be willing to work with you on the cloud.
I’d also recommend making a plan and assigning the most tech-savvy person in your firm to lead the transition between desktop and cloud. The transition may break some of your processes and workflows, which is why I’d recommend going into the transition with a plan. As with any change, you may encounter a period of uncertainty, so you need to know why you are making the transition to avoid throwing in the towel too soon. Once you make the commitment, I’m sure that you will begin to recognize the power of the cloud.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on the Firm of the Future blog.