Senior Accountant, Dickinson & Clark CPAs, PC
Council Bluffs, IA
Education: BSBA Accounting, Creighton University
Professional Associations/Memberships: AICPA, NE Society of CPAs
Hobbies: I’m into technology but also appreciate the serenity of the outdoors and the power and style of classic cars.
Cell phone: Motorola Razr VE20 — nothing special or smart, pretty much just calls people.
Favorite app: My phone doesn’t do apps and I don’t carry another device around just to have apps with me.
Do you embrace cloud computing? I absolutely embrace cloud computing in all its forms. When you can make information safer and more accessible, I think it’s a win-win situation for all involved. It gives employees greater flexibility, employers more opportunities for productivity and flexibility in workforce, and may also result in increased transparency and accessibility for clients.
How is cloud computing changing the accounting profession, and how concerned are you with the security issues related to cloud computing? I don’t really see cloud computing significantly changing the profession, just the ways we are able to do things. There may be some subsequent changes in business models as a result, but nothing that changes our charge to help clients understand their financial information. Dealing with sensitive information, there has always been concern in the profession that information may fall into the wrong hands. Cloud computing does not change that fact; it just changes what the protocols for security look like. Rather than super-duty deadbolts, we need to have password rules that will make sure everyone has a password that is hard to hack.
Do you foresee the majority of firms still implementing servers for the majority of their computing in their offices five years from now or do you think they will be outsourcing this component to vendors who specialize in this area? I think we have to consider economics, bandwidth and personal preference. If a firm is large enough, it may be more efficient to have in-house servers than to pay per-user license fees for the number of users they may have. For firms with few users, they may be able to get a lot more horsepower for their dollars by outsourcing.
Bandwidth seems to be sufficient at current levels that utilizing tools like Citrix or Terminal Server don’t show much latency for the user, but some is still perceptible if you’re working on a slow connection or Wi-Fi with a poor signal. As bandwidth, Wi-Fi, and other over-the-air services improve in speed, this will be less of an issue and is already perfectly acceptable to some in its current state. Some people will feel their information is more secure if they can see it in their own office behind lock and key, multiple levels of passwords, and bolted to the floor. I think some of those people would be more comfortable with cloud computing if they visited a reputable data center and saw what the security looked like there. I think the majority of firms will still have servers, but the number will be diminishing and the amount of information stored on them will be reduced, as well.
What is an “old school” business practice or process you’d like to see changed in the next five years and why? I would like to see billing and bill-pay systems become more centralized and web-based, but they really seem to be all over the place right now. It would be nice if there were some emerging standards that would help banks and vendors more easily integrate billing and bill-pay features without being too fee intensive. It would cut down on a lot of paper waste and reduce turnaround time on payments due to time in the mail and processing funds manually by the banks.
How many hours of the day are you plugged in and responsive to client needs? And what tools/products make it possible for you to have flexibility? On a regular basis, it’s 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. M-F that clients can expect me to be responsive; but they will get the occasional 11:00 p.m. or weekend reply to an email when I check my email remotely. I’m also available most of the day on Saturday and further into the evenings during tax season as we extend office hours. For clients that have my cell phone number, it’s pretty much whenever I’m awake and not absolutely in the middle of something else. Having access to email and client files via Citrix makes it possible to respond from anywhere I can get an Internet connection, making it easier to leave the office and without being disconnected.
Are you using social networking (such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook) as a marketing tool for your practice/business … or do you use such sites for personal use only? Have you gained any clients or seen other demonstrable benefits from the use of social networking?
LinkedIn — Is there a purely personal application for this? Yes, I have a personal profile, and I also have helped the firm set up a company profile just to add an additional layer of visibility. As much as we would like to do more with this, we can only do what the platform allows. LinkedIn may help us to connect with some potential clients, most likely if we find them and initiate contact. I don’t see it being a space where people are hanging out and likely to stumble upon you as a service provider.
Facebook — I have a personal account here as well, and I have helped the firm set up a company page where we share tax information and updates as well as worthwhile events in the community. I think Facebook has some good potential if we utilize some targeted ads just before tax season to increase our visibility with our target client base. I doubt we’ll be releasing anything on the page that will go viral and bring us thousands of fans overnight.
Twitter — I have an account that I suppose is technically personal, but I have always used it as a professional tool with the handle @BluffsCPA . I’m hardly using it in a purely personal sense, but it’s all from me. Twitter is another great space where people really do converse and will ask questions that give you an opportunity to demonstrate what a quality professional you are. I have some prospects and additional clients both for my firm and for others in my referral network that are solely from interaction on Twitter.
What pitfalls or what unwritten rules of social networking etiquette exist, which are frequently missed by others in the profession? I think there are rules of networking that are frequently missed by professionals, few of which are totally unique to “social networking.” I think the first level of understanding is the difference between networking and prospecting or pitching. The network concept is to add value to the network and it will give value back to you; what goes around comes around, essentially.
Hopping out into social networking just to toot your own horn will never be effective, especially in our profession. The types of information and situations we deal with require a high level of trust, so the types of interactions you have in social networking need to demonstrate that you are a trustable and competent professional who genuinely looks out for the client’s best interests. Most of the pet peeves in social networking and face-to-face networking I have heard tend to focus around someone trying to sell you on their product or service before they even know who you are or over-the-top self-promotion.
Do you subscribe to a magazine and/or local newspaper? I receive a couple publications as part of other memberships, but I do not purposefully subscribe to anything. Most of the information I am interested in seeing is freely available online, and I really don’t care that old media still measures itself with circulation statistics. I see no reason to pay for a subscription that basically covers the cost of the paper and handling charges when I can read the same information sooner online and share it easier there, as well. Most written media has traditionally made its money selling advertising not subscriptions anyway.
What ONE piece of technology could you absolutely not live without? I absolutely have to have some sort of multi-monitor, online PC. I could not get anything done without this. It’s ok if that PC accesses all of the information in the clouds, but it needs to have multiple monitors that work seamlessly and access to the Internet.
NOT including your current employer, what company do you most admire and why? It’s a local favorite, but I’m rather fond of Berkshire Hathaway. What Warren Buffet has been able to do with Berkshire Hathaway is truly amazing, and to know that intellectual horsepower like that is less than 10 miles from my house is pretty inspiring.
What are some ways your firm/business has gone “paperless” and/or “green” in the last two years? Almost every piece of paper related to a client project is now scanned with the original returned to the client or shredded. Client files that used to only hold one year’s worth of information can now be used from year to year to year with little or no increase in the size of that paper file. The paperless system has made it easier to organize, retrieve and store client information as it can be accessed from anywhere there is an Internet connection.
Do you use online resources like webcasts for CPE training? Yes, I do. There are some specialized items of CPE that are almost cost prohibitive to obtain any other way, and it is incredibly convenient.
Do you listen to podcasts? My favorite podcast is the Duct Tape Marketing podcast by John Jantsch. John always has interesting guests and has a good fundamental model that is always learning more about how to employ the latest technologies as tools for marketing.
What sports team/championship event do you absolutely refuse to miss? I truly feel compelled to watch Huskers football. I really won’t go out of my way for anything else.
What are some of your favorite books, movies, music, websites, and TV shows? Best book I’ve read recently is “The Innovator’s Solution.” Best recent movie is “Clash of the Titans.” Joe Kristan’s Tax Update Blog is fun and handy. I also enjoy “Ghosthunters International.”
How many monitors do you have on your desk? Two
What operating system and version of Microsoft Office is installed on your work computer? My work PC is running Windows XP and Microsoft Office 2007. I use Windows 7 and OpenOffice on my MiniPC, and while technically not a work PC, it gets a lot of work-related usage.