The Future is a Three-Way Conversation

There’s been numerous questions over the past few years around where this push (or pull) for “change” is really coming from, when the real issue, as it relates to firms and truly being a digital CPA, is ultimately a three-way conversation between clients, firms, and the vendor community.

Rather than wondering where the idea stems from or who is pushing or pulling who more, it is high time that all parties involved get on the same page with the common goal of simply moving forward. Progress is never easy, nor should it be, but why make it harder than it needs to be? The rate of technology adoption among businesses and CPA firms is clearly at a tipping point and rather than have it slip backwards or go in the wrong direction, meaningful exchange among all parties needs to happen, and happen now.

Where the profession, and business in general is at now is no longer a doom and gloom scenario of “change or die,” but one of acceptance of the need to evolve and the need for useful tools and the support of colleagues – and everyone involved – to get there.

I know in the 13 years that I have covered the technology component of the accounting profession, I have seen the evolution of not only the tools CPAs and businesses use to better their jobs, but also in the thinking of how technology truly fits in to a conversation about growth and the future.

This is no longer advanced thinking or discussions about what will come, but what is and what could be by knowing what technology is available, how it has evolved, and where exactly to apply it to the benefit of your practice and your clients. Again, necessary exchange on these topics is a paramount to the change that needs to happen.

Having an event like Digital CPA Conference creates the basis for such exchange – the right exchange -- to happen; an event where you have a good cross section of technical and practical information from those in the know. If you are a firm, whether you seek deeper direction on a particular product that is of use to your practice or simply want more direction on evaluating the latest tools and trends; this is where to begin and continue that journey. But it shouldn’t be the only one.

All too often the useful ideas and conversations at gathering of forward minded individuals, like the one coming up this month, tend to fade as the weeks and months following the event wane on. In short, it’s time to commit to keep the conversation going.

Extend your thoughts to the blogs, Twitter chats and community sites known for useful exchange between businesses, firms, and technology providers.

Make change and the betterment of your firm and your clients’ part of your everyday and be a part of the conversations that help you get there. It’s truly the next step you all – firms, vendors and clients – need to take.

Seth Fineberg is Managing Editor of AccountingWEB, a community site dedicated to useful information for practicing accountants, bookkeepers and CPAs. He has a 25-year career as a business journalist and editor, most recently serving as the senior B-to-B reporter for AdAge Magazine, as well as Technology Editor of Accounting Today and Editor-in-Chief of

Three questions to ask your payroll provider

Deciding on a payroll provider can be overwhelming so we have put together 3 questions around cost, reporting and customer service to ask your payroll providers. Remember these are just a few suggestions to get the conversation started to help you make the right decision for your firm.

Diamond Mining and The Business of Service

What makes diamonds so valuable?

At a meeting recently one of the presenters quizzed the audience about this sparkling topic. He then went on to explain how the largest diamond company in the word, De Beers, controls the diamond mines and in effect the quantity of diamonds placed into the market. This drives the diamonds price and makes them very valuable as De Beers holds back production to create scarcity and inflate prices.

Unlike minerals, oil, and other rare objects, when it comes to knowledge and information, this scarcity strategy does not work. Quite the opposite. In our knowledge focused economy, which is the primarily driver of price in the business of service, the greater the knowledge base and access to information, the more value for whoever or whatever holds that knowledge and information. Take Google, for example, now the fourth most valuable company in the world. Google’s vast fortune is based almost exclusively on the fact that it is a primary controller of the world’s access to knowledge and information. They have patented the best way on earth to help people find information. That type of access has a tremendous price.

As opposed to a diamond miner, when business advisors hold onto information and knowledge, it becomes basically worthless. However, sharing it with clients, staff, referral sources, and the market in general makes what you do precious and valuable, especially when you factor into the equation that many firms are too busy in production to take the time to share their expertise. When your firm is able to build, capture, and share knowledge and information, it creates differentiation among competing firms that clients want access to, need, and will pay for.

My brother in law runs a few businesses in New Zealand and he is constantly amazed that his accounting firm regularly uncovers new ideas that seem to fit his business and he is grateful they do. Differentiation of this sort is not easy however it can be as straightforward as setting up a system whereby the ideas and information contained in your firm are regularly distributed outside your four walls. It may be in the form of writing articles, blogging, presenting, or hosting quarterly workshops for your network of contacts. Whatever the distribution outlets, it is critical that they are identified and used. This is a powerful approach for a team of advisors to take, yet too many businesses complain that their accountant never seems to talk with them unless its tax season.

Strategies for uncovering valuable gems in your business:

Take an inventory of your clients and services to identify where your true expertise lies.

Tap into your expertise, deepen it, and create even more powerful information and services that clients want and need.

Brainstorm how to give your knowledge and expertise to the market in a format or platform that it wants and needs.

Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 regularly.

Patrick Pruett, The Rainmaker Companies

Patrick helps accounting firms around the world by facilitating connections among members, providing consultative support and delivering high quality resources that enable firms to better compete and improve the management of their practices. As the leader of The Rainmaker Alliances, he presents at national and international conferences and delivers Rainmaker training programs. Patrick specializes in working with firms that have a strategic niche they want to grow and develop. He will be part of the DCPA15 line up this year!

Keith Fileccia: Cutting the Cord with Mobile Inventory Management

Introduction written by

To be a true advisor to clients it takes understanding their industry and being aware of technologies that could impact their record keeping. For those practitioner serving a manufacturing niche, this article by Chris Fraser, has helpful information on mobile inventory management and how to choose the right system.

The use of mobile devices, solutions and barcoding is on the rise. According to Motorola Solutions (From Cost Center to Growth Center: Warehousing 2018), by 2018, 66% of their survey respondents plan to use handheld mobile computers for inventory management with real-time access to an inventory & warehouse management system. Plus, it is estimated that the number of barcoded items received at a warehouse or distribution center will increase to 84%.

With this upward trend, businesses should fully understand mobile inventory management, what is involved and if it can meet their needs for greater operational success.

QuickBooks expert and consultant Keith Fileccia of Mendelson Consulting works with wholesale distribution clients to understand mobile inventory management and barcoding; to develop a strategic plan to effectively integrate it with their operations; and he implements mobile inventory management solutions within their business.

Keith recently gave us his first-hand account of transitioning to mobile inventory management and barcoding within an organization.

What should a business address first when they want to add mobile inventory management to their operations?

The business needs to understand exactly what they want to accomplish.

At Mendelson Consulting we get a lot of calls about mobile inventory management. It’s usually framed as “I want to do barcoding” and some people do not really understand what barcoding is, so you have to start at the very basic level. There is a barcode and there is a UPC and they are often used interchangeably.

UPC stands for Universal Product Code and that means a manufacturer has taken an item and had a universal barcode assigned to it. For example, if I go to Target® it is the same UPC as if I go to Walmart®.

A barcode is simply turning a number or a sequence of numbers and letters into what we traditionally know as a barcode. Those tend to be unique to a company. I could have a barcode in my organization that a business three doors down also uses, but for a completely different product.

So, first and foremost the business needs to know if they will be dealing with UPCs that only one product will have or if it needs to be a company specific thing.

The next question is: Does the inventory coming in the backdoor have a barcode or a UPC already on it? If it doesn’t, the business has to have the ability to generate the barcode, which has to be done prior to receiving the goods because it needs to be put on each of the items.

There is also the question of how the business plans to use barcoding because barcoding with QuickBooks is different than with a QuickBooks add-on, like Acctivate Inventory Software that offers mobile inventory management.

QuickBooks Advanced Inventory has a feature they call barcoding and it will generate a barcode and then you can put that on your products and scan that in, but you have to actually be connected to QuickBooks. This means you might be lugging a barcode scanner and a notebook around the warehouse or bringing the products to a central place to scan.

Secondly, you can’t use QuickBooks to do what I call sales order or purchase order verification and that is what true pick, pack, ship type of environments are about. Most companies are looking at barcoding in terms of pick, pack and ship to drive efficiency to receive goods in the door and send them out, so a third-party inventory management software will accomplish this rather than QuickBooks alone.

What benefits does mobile inventory management bring to a business?

Increased speed and accuracy.

Mobile inventory management used directly at receiving actually helps speed up overall operations. In the warehouse, most companies struggle with manual entry.

In a typical operation: items come in the backdoor, somebody removes a packing list from it, checks it, writes on it the items that have been delivered, and sends it over to accounting to be key entered and received against the purchase order.

During this process there could be errors, such as the wrong quantities could be entered or whoever is entering it could be picking the wrong product. One of the biggest warehouse errors, which results in costs is either receiving the wrong items or shipping out the wrong items. If something is picked and it’s the wrong item and that item is shipped out, now charges are going to be incurred to have the product returned and generally you wouldn’t charge the customer to ship out the right thing. I’ve seen clients that ship out the wrong product so they tell the customer, “Oh just keep that one,” then there’s the cost of those goods.

When mobile inventory management with barcoding is brought into the picture warehouse operations become much more accurate and therefore efficient because the UPC or barcode can be scanned upon receipt.

The great thing about mobile inventory management with Acctivate is that if the wrong item or the wrong quantity is scanned, the actual mobile computers will make the most obnoxious buzzing sound to tell you that you’ve done something wrong or picked the wrong item.

What size business does mobile inventory management suit?

Any organization that has grown to a warehouse operation should consider a mobile solution. Small, medium, or large — it doesn’t matter the size of the organization. If the company is incurring significant warehouse operation costs due to shipping out the wrong items and/or shipping to the wrong customer, mobile inventory management makes sense.

The question that a business has to ask itself is how often does this happen. If it happens regularly there is an ROI almost immediately in going to mobile inventory management.

If a business has two shelves, sells five products, and it takes three minutes to pick an order, there’s no need to go to mobile inventory management, because usually there wouldn’t be a large number of errors. There’s no ROI there and without ROI there’s no point in going mobile.

Moving to mobile makes sense when you’re dealing with a warehouse that has hundreds or thousands of items located in multiple places — that’s where mobile inventory management will drive efficiency.

What strategies & logistics should a business consider to have effective mobile inventory management?

Most people who think in terms of “I want to go mobile and I want to do barcoding,” think it is a five-minute process and it is actually not. Anytime you implement a mobile solution it does take time and planning. There are so many factors that go into mobile inventory management. The warehouse needs to be setup with bin locations, the barcodes need to be on the product and in the system, etc.

Remember, there are those ground rules that have to be established — do you have UPCs or barcodes; does the product coming in have UPCs or barcodes; do you have to add UPCs or barcodes to it; what is your current workflow; what is your volume of orders; and/or do you need a pick list then a packing station or can you pick one order at a time?

For large organizations that are dealing with multiple orders at once, we’ll set up a packing station with barcoding because we don’t want the employees “ping-ponging” around the warehouse – going out to pick ten items for one order, then going back and picking five items for another order. In this instance, we build reports for customers that list what is needed and it all comes to a packing station where the scanning is done.

The other important thing about mobile is that we can actually setup bin locations — that’s another cost incurred by businesses if not setup effectively with an alphanumeric layout that lends to a nice mobile transition.

I have learned through the years, rarely do I walk into an organization that actually has a warehouse layout that is set up logically to be able to sort a pick list by bin location. When I walk into a warehouse I ask them to tell me about their bin locations and how they have assigned them. About 75% of the time we end up redoing the layout. For instance, if there is an $8 per hour warehouse worker and they get a pick ticket and head out into the warehouse and ping-pong around the warehouse for 20 minutes picking a $5 order, that is not efficient.

Mobile inventory management allows a business to sort the pick ticket by bin location. For example, the worker starts in row 1 and it guides them efficiently through the warehouse to pick the order. So again, saving costs on what I call the “ping-pong effect.” The efficiency is actually in how the worker moves through the warehouse.

Also, there has to be Wi-Fi hotspots connected throughout the warehouse because you’re connected with a device that uses Wi-Fi technology.

What should a business look for in a mobile inventory management solution?

One that allows flexibility, the ability to generate your own barcodes, and is portable (you don’t have to drag the computer with you).

Functionality-wise the mobile inventory management solution should allow mobile receipt of products into the warehouse, picking of products on sales orders, sales order entry, and product transfers between warehouses and locations.

What tools have you talked to manufacturing clients about to add in their inventory and accurate records?

Building a Brand Family

When developing a brand strategy, many times the creative direction is driven by more than one entity. Most companies today have several products and/or services that live under one core brand. It's important that the relationship of these elements be defined for current and future initiatives.

Typically this is referred to as a brand family. You have the core or parent brand that sits at the top of the overall brand structure. Underneath this umbrella live the additional products and services. There are several strategies that brand architects use to define this relationship.

Below are several approaches I've used for managing a brand-within-a-brand dynamic.


At the top of this structure sits the parent brand. Its role is to define and establish the messaging and the overall look and feel of the company as a whole. This part of the brand will be the most visible to most people because its attributes are being promoted through high visibility channels such as the web, print, television, outdoor and social media.

In addition, the parent brand will play a key role in the company’s creative and content branding. Tactics such as signage, retail outlet design, advertising – even forms generally need to be represented under the parent brand umbrella.

Below the parent brand are the separate but integrated offspring or sub-brands. Their role can represent:

  • Individual Products
  • Unique Services
  • Education Programs
  • Internal HR Initiatives
  • Events
  • Digital Assets

Each one of these sub-brands can assume its own unique identity while still aligning and following the basic principles of the parent brand. This structure is extremely practical because they all perform a different function within the overall make up of parent brand.

Tactically, the offspring all share the similar typographic, visual and messaging style. Their unique qualities come through naming, logo marks, shifts in colors, language and visual interpretation.

It’s worth noting that sub-brands will also have (at times) different audiences and marketing tactics. The more relevant and consistent a communications tool and message align with its recipient’s interest and expectations, the more successful the outcome will be.

Apple is a terrific example of this approach. They've managed to balance this branding technique so well that consumers have a true affinity and connection with each individual product or service.

They've evolved their brand so successfully that today's Apple steps back and proudly allows their offspring to shine. 


This approach flattens the overall structure of a brand and its sub-brands and is built as a single entity. In other words products and services generally are not identified by a unique name or mark and are treated more or less as an extension of the primary brand.

This strategy works best when a single offering or service has built and sustained the company's success. Additional offerings are generally represented as a support line that locks up with the brand's parent logo.

From an execution standpoint, it can be an efficient way to execute marketing materials. It can also be the most limiting. It's essentially one logo supported by a range of qualifying lines that identify the product or service. All of the communications share one set of very specific brand guidelines.

The down side of this approach is that the individual lines of business can fade into the background behind the core brand. This could be problematic when product successes and failures are attributed to the parent company and not the responsible product or service.

This creates a customer relationship that exists with the core company alone. Any affinity with a particular sub-brand is more organic than deliberate.

FedEx has been managing this creative direction successfully for years. The brand name is indeed king. Products and services that live under the core brand seem more like functional attributes that exist under a single solution.


This strategy is a great solution when the parent brand prefers to allow its offspring to go out on their own.

The sub-brands are free to establish their own unique look and feel as long as they maintain pre-determined characteristics of the lead brand. This approach is successful when the parent brand has a broad portfolio of products and services. Any other structure has the potential of becoming impractical or confusing.

The individual line of business is responsible for their own brand platform and they define the creative approach that fits best with their customers and the product or service they represent. What's interesting about this direction is that these sub-brands traditionally take on a Parent & Offspring or a King of the Hill approach when building out their product line's brand.

P&G is a great example of this. With thousands of SKUs in its portfolio, any other approach would simply be impractical. This structure enables brands like Crest to develop a strong brand hierarchy around its extensive offering.


Defining the brand and its sub-brands – pinpointing each of the brand’s attributes, benefits and unique characteristics – is a process that yields loyalty, efficiency and continuity with every communications touch point.

The right formula for your brand will not only define the best persona for your company but will also provide structure as you continue to grow.

Learn more from Richard Shuback on branding in his class at DCPA15.

A Closer Look at Our Startup Accelerator Companies

The of International Certified Professional Accountants Startup Accelerator is an annual program that finds, invests in, and guides early-stage tech companies with solutions that support accounting and finance professionals. This blog series provides a deeper look at the five companies in the 2021 cohort.