Meet the finalists:
Intuit’s Firm of the Future competition is an interesting snapshot of the firms that Intuit considers to best represent the future of the profession. Intuit doesn’t fully disclose how it selects firms but we can reverse engineer what matters.
Digital First asked each finalist questions about their business model such as pricing and cloud penetration, and the technology stack they use to run their businesses. The results are in the table below.
All four finalists are small firms averaging 10 employees and most are more than 10 years old with between 100 to 150 clients. The majority of their clients are in the cloud and also on the same product, QuickBooks Online. In the debate about multi-vendor firms, Intuit’s Firms of the Future trend towards supporting a single vendor.
There are several ways to read this. The more you support one vendor the better support you will receive in return. And the more clients on the same system the easier it is to operate your business. You only need one set of processes for your staff to follow and can focus your efforts on improving that system, rather than spreading it over multiple systems, interfaces and support requests.
All the finalists have plenty of experience at selling their services under fixed fee or value pricing agreements. However, selling management reporting is still a relatively low percentage of their business.
The ratio of staff to clients hovers between 15-22 clients per employee. The firm most successful at selling management reporting has a correspondingly lower number of clients, perhaps indicating the extra effort involved.
Table 1: Business model
|Name||All That Counts||Business Works UK LTd||Business Cents Inc||AIS Solutions|
|Location of company (City and Country)||Sydney, Australia||Garforth, England||Spokane, WA||Burlington, Canada|
|Pricing||Mainly fixed fee||Mainly fixed fee||Mainly fixed fee||Mainly fixed fee|
|What % of your clients are on QBO? (est.)||85%||60%||96-98%||96%|
|What % of your clients are on cloud accounting software? (est.)||100%||65%||98%||100% – remaining 4% are hosted QBDT|
|How long have you been in business?||13 years||8 years||9+ years||17 years|
|Age of principal (est.)||46||50||55||–|
|How many years have you sold fixed fee services?||4 years||8 years||2 years||7 years|
|No. of staff||5||9||7||12|
|No. of clients||100-120 (includes consulting + project work)||150||150||–|
|Staff to client ratio||1:15||1:17||1:22||1:20|
|What % of clients buy management reporting on a monthly basis? (est.)||60%||10%||>25%||–|
Do you outsource any bookkeeping or accounting work?
The four finalists have moved all their systems to the cloud as well. DropBox is the most popular document storage though not the only one. AIS Solutions uses four services to send files to its clients. It looks like accountants and bookkeepers will be dealing with multiple storage locations for some time yet.
Expense tracking is another category where multiple apps are common for at least two of the firms. AIS Solutions and All That Counts have found use cases for Receipt Bank, HubDoc and Expensify within the one firm.
Table 2. The App Stack
|Business Works UK||Business Cents||AIS Solutions|
|Office Productivity||Microsoft Office 365||Office 365||–||GSuite + Boomerang + ToDoist + Teamwork Chat + Evernote + Zoom|
|Workflow||Karbon + Jotform + OneNote||Digita||Aero||Teamwork + Mindnode + LucidChart|
|Tax + Statutory Accts||GovReports + LodgeIT||TaxFiler + Digita||–||QBO|
|Document Storage||Dropbox + Microsoft OneDrive||Microsoft One Drive + Dropbox||DropBox||HubDoc + Google Drive + Dropbox + Box|
|Expense tracking||Receipt Bank + HubDoc + Expensify||AutoEntry||Entryless||HubDoc + Receipt Bank + Expensify|
|Credit control||IODM||Invoice Sherpa||–||Expensify|
|Management Reporting||Calxa||Futrli||Spotlight||Fathom + Float (Forecasting – Float, LivePlan)|