Intuit announces competition for firm of the future

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Intuit has launched a competition to find the accounting firm of the future. Cloud vendors are delivering increasingly sophisticated cloud accounting solutions. With embedded machine learning and the ability for accountants to oversee their client in real time the traditional roles are changing.

Automation of expenses means that less time is spent by accountants checking and fixing problems which means that they need to diversify to offer new services to clients. The competition is open to full service firms, bookkeepers and tax professionals based in Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA.

Rich Preece, global leader of Intuit’s Accountant Segment, Small Business Group commented: “We have witnessed numerous inspiring firms in past years who have made great strides to embrace technology and we are excited to see what this year’s entries will bring to the table. We are now in the third year of the Firm of the Future contest and our mission has remained constant ever since we began our search in 2015: to celebrate firms – from full-service to sole proprietors – who have welcomed the future and embraced the latest innovations to amplify their roles as trusted advisors and evolve their practice.”

How to win

Entries need to be completed by 13th August 2017. Applicants need to answer five question:

  1. How many small business clients does the company serve for tax/accounting/bookkeeping needs?
  2. What percentage of small business clients use QuickBooks Online?
  3. Explain how you save time for your firm and your clients by leveraging cloud-based accounting technologies, including QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Online Accountant, and/or any third-party applications.
  4. Describe what advisory services you perform on behalf of your clients to help them avoid pitfalls and identify growth opportunities. Please include how technology and the products you use play a role in your ability to deliver these services.
  5. Tell us how the firm is leveraging the Web, digital marketing and social media to interact with clients, reach new prospects and grow.

…and if you aren’t a Quickbooks reseller

Interestingly while it is highly unlikely that a non Quickbooks reseller will win the award they can still benefit. Intuit has created a Firm of the Future website that delivers insights and advice on what the next generation accounting firm needs to consider.  This includes information around a wide variety of topics including client relations, growth, training and industry news. The advice should be considered in some ways a minimum and it seems likely that the winning firm will have taken a step beyond this.

Accounting as an industry is in disruption. Firms need to consider how they increase their revenues and decrease their costs. They need to get closer to their clients delivering services that offer real benefits that the client values. This means that accountants need to diversify their skill sets in the future. This means delivering technology and business advice that may stray outside the realm of finance.

And the winner is …

Preece and a panel of judges will determine the four finalists and 15 runners up from all submissions. What is interesting is that the competition is not segmented further by type of accountant. Each finalist will prepare a video and the final winner determine by a public vote. Last years winner, Karine Woodman, owner of 24hr Bookkeeper commented: “Being the Firm of the Future global winner in 2016 has spotlighted my business with both my clients and my community. The title indicates that we are forward-thinker and allows us to showcase our passion for small business success. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many people within the accounting industry by entering the contest and those connections are priceless.”

The four finalists will receive $5000 and tickets to QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, California between November 15-17. Runners up will receive $2,500. The winner will be presented on the main stage and will win a total prize of $25,000

What does this mean

For Intuit partners this is an opportunity with three obvious advantages. There is the actual prize money available, winning it is unlikely to let them retire. However the kudos and publicity generated from winning the prize could boost marketing efforts. Firms entering will need to consider the questions carefully. In doing so they might see new opportunities for improving their business. The latter benefit is available to any accounting firm.

For Intuit is creates a situation where it is helping to improve its partner base. In doing so they are likely to win more business for themselves and for Intuit. It is probably hard to evaluate the ROI of this initiative. However as it’s the third year they clearly feel the initiative works.

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