Ep. 49: Katie Thomas - Want to grow your business and become more profitable?

February 17, 2020 | 14 Minutes

Katie Thomas, CPA, Founder and Owner of Leaders Online LLC, is a digital marketing strategist and content creation expert who helps financial services and other businesses implement the right marketing strategies to reach their target audiences. Katie is a national speaker who captivates the attention of her listeners and shares strategies so her clients can do the same to cultivate genuine relationships. In this episode of Count Me In, Katie talks about how technology has changed the landscape of the accounting industry-not just how it has changed roles, but also the way in which finance and accounting professionals collaborate, enhance the quality of their work, and increase efficiencies. She further explains "what gets measured can be fixed", and that applies to creating stronger content and sustainable brands. Katie worked for two of the largest public accounting firms in the world and graduated as valedictorian and summa cum laude from the University of Kansas with bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting. She is now using all this experience and knowledge to put forth digital marketing efforts and lead firms through their digital transformations to grow their businesses. Leave us a review and let us know your thoughts on Katie's insights!

Katie's recent content: https://www.linkedin.com/in/katiethomascpa/detail/recent-activity/shares/

(Foreword) Adam: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Adam here. Before we get started with today's episode, I want to thank you all for joining us each week and taking part of these great conversations we are having, but I have to ask you a favor. If you listen each week and you enjoy this podcast, please go on iTunes and rate us and leave a review. This helps our podcast be able to reach more people. Thank you so much in advance for taking the time. And now here's today's episode 
Adam: (00:22)
Welcome back to Count Me In. I am a podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I am your host, Adam Larson and I'm happy to bring you episode 49 of our series one in which we are fortunate enough to be joined by Katie Thomas. Katie is a CPA who is the founder and owner of leaders online, a digital marketing agency for professional service providers. She is a content creation expert and national speakers strives to guide firms through their digital transformations and grow their business. Let's head over and listen to her conversation with Mitch now. 
Mitch: (00:59)
So in your role, what have you seen as far as technology changing the landscape of the accounting industry? 
Katie: (01:12)
So, Mitch, that's a great question and it's pretty loaded as it could be expanded to a wide variety of areas, but to focus in on a few areas, I'm going to have to go with the collaboration, work quality and efficiency. So with collaboration, the technology available to actually support collaboration has enabled small and large firms to truly reach way beyond the walls of just their building. So these firms can work with clients all over and then also have employees staffed all over. So no longer are they being constrained to a physical location. And then of course efficiency, that's huge. Firms are able to get way more done a lot quicker. And so like bill.com receipt bank and all of those apps available have allowed firms to become more efficient. And then the quality, this is really important aspect of technology. Of course it's great to be become more efficient, but the quality of the work and removing, you know, some of the chance of human error is great because there's, you know, the work is getting done correctly. Efficiency and like I said, collaboration. So tying all of these together, I think a really important piece that you can, you know, take all these aspects and kind of pull out is that we have better relationships both internally with employees and then also externally with class clients because we can focus on the things that truly matter, like the high level work output that needs done and then building relationships rather than just spending our time doing mundane tasks. 
Mitch: (02:54)
Yeah, I think those are all great points. And to just kind of follow up real quick, what kind of results do you think this collaboration work quality and efficiency ultimately leads to for the organization as a whole? 
Katie: (03:07)
It leads to, in my opinion, a lot better, stronger vision and fulfillment of the firm's mission whenever everyone is on the same page, both internally, so the staff and externally the clients, then everyone's working towards the same goal. And no one feels like they're being left out, but they're not on the same page. And the sense of unity that it brings is incredible. 
Mitch: (03:37)
I think that's a great point. So thank you for tying all that together. And I would say the next step of this technology that's available to these organizations is the ability to use analytics. So what is your perspective in regards to organizations embracing analytics and what does that really help the business answer? 
Katie: (03:56)
So with analytics, it's really important to just go to the basics of what gets measured can be fixed. And all of the software that firms are using today is providing data. So your marketing software, your practice management software, your client portal and so forth. And then you need to actually take this data and get it into a single location where you can understand the data and have context around what's impacting the outcomes. So you need to be looking at leading and lagging indicators with the leading indicators. These are the ones that look forward at future outcomes and events. And then your lagging indicator, it's going to look back at whether the intended result was achieved. So for example, let's say a firm has their profit down, that's going to be a past event. It's a lagging indicator. Now we need to actually look at why and see what went into this happening. So some of the leading indicators, you know, we might look at our, is it because we don't have enough new clients coming in the door? Is our client churn rate too high? What are our marketing efforts looking like? And you have to bring all the data together to understand the story and for the data to tell the correct story, you can't be missing half of the pages, right? So it's really imperative to have all this data in one place and then we can take action based off the entire story telling us. 
Mitch: (05:25)
So a big you know, baseline for the analytics that we typically talk about are going up the analytics curve from the descriptive analytics all the way through the adaptive analytics. Ideally, once technology is really enabled throughout the organization. So as people are making these decisions and we have all this data in this one place, I'm just curious what you think. Um, you know, if there are any specific technology tools or certain types of analytics that businesses should be really focusing on to get some better results. 
Katie: (05:57)
So it really depends upon, you know, what technology they're using in terms of what sort of analytics platform is going to work best for them. Because you know, if you're trying to use a piece of software that doesn't say connect with your marketing data that's going to be difficult to look at some of those leading indicators. But for example, a platform like Malartu, they're really awesome at bringing all the data together. A fathom is of course very, very popular in our industry, power BI, they're looking, you know, to get really complex. So there's a whole lot of tools available. And I wouldn't say that there's like a best tool because what works best for one firm or maybe for one of the firms clients to help them analyze their data. It's gonna vary, you know, business to business. 
Mitch: (06:47)
And I think that's a great segue into kind of giving you an opportunity to talk about what it is specifically that you do. So we're accounting and finance, but I know you have a very unique perspective on how accounting and finance organizations can use this data. So what does all of this really mean when it comes to building a sustainable brand for an organization? 
Katie: (07:08)
So when it comes to building a sustainable and strong brand, I think it's always important not to get distracted by all of the information available to you in first focus in on proving that you are a strong brand to your existing clients. So some of the ways you can do this is by never missing deadlines, being responsive. I don't know how many times we hear accountants aren't, you know, they, they're hard to get in touch with. So be super responsive, not only to your clients, but to your staff in making sure that there's complete context in every single conversation. So let's say for example, we have Ann and Bob both working on our client ABC company. Both Ann and Bob should be able to communicate with ABC company without gaps. For example, Bob shouldn't be asking ABC company something that they told in last week the software available today and the technology, it really supports us in being able to democratize data this way. So first we should be proving to our existing clients that we're a strong brand. But then of course the next question is how do we build a strong brand when it comes to a wider market? And how do we get them to truly understand who we are, what we stand for, and ultimately what our brand represents? Well, kind of like the first, the first thing we talked about and it being a really wide answer. There's a, there's a lot of different directions you can take to build strong brand, but this is really the plug for this is the most ridiculously powerful software that is available to every single practitioner out there. And you don't even have to pay for a license. It's social media and social media allows you to attract new clients, connect with new clients, build relationships with new clients. And while it's amazing to use it to attract new clients, a want to say that it's social media really does so much more than just simply help you, you know, project who you are to these new clients and attract them and bring them into your firm. It really impacts all stakeholders who interface with your firm there. They're all impacted by your social media brand. And this is why I think social media is so incredible to build a strong sustainable brand because it really influences not just those perspective clients but your employees other partners in your firm your community members really, it allows you to reach everyone and going back, you know, to some of the other things we talked about, communicate your mission, your vision, who you are, what you stand for. So social media is really, really powerful. 
Mitch: (09:55)
All right, so I wanted to give you an opportunity to kind of take this conversation one step further as far as digital marketing and kind of have you talked to us a little bit about what you do and your team as far as guiding businesses through digital transformations. 
Katie: (10:10)
So Mitch, what we do is we simply help firms become more profitable. So whether that is helping them increase their revenue, uh, through adding new clients to their business, we really focused on digital marketing there and helping them build an online presence and attract new clients or we help them decrease their expenses. Typically this is going to be helping them become more efficient. So implement more efficient workflows, streamline their existing processes integrate new technology into the firm. And a lot of times firms come to us either wanting to grow their business and attract new clients or they already recognized that, you know, they want to become more efficient. And it's really interesting because as we're working with them on one side or the other whether that be the marketing or more on the process and technology side of things, typically once we solve one problem, they want to address the other side of the equation. So if, you know, they get their processes in order, they're like, wow, I feel great, feel confident. Let's bring on some new clients. Or with marketing, they want to start there. We're able to really bring them on the number of clients that they're looking for. So if they really want to grow, well, pretty soon they're like, this is great, I'm growing. But you know, I want to evaluate my, you know, my systems and processes so I can become more efficient. So that's why we say we really help firms become more profitable and you know, how we do that. It's working with both sides of the equation. 
Mitch: (11:54)
And I guess just my last question here, you know, you've talked about taking advantage of different technologies, digital transformations with social media and digital marketing. If you had to take a guess, what do you think the future of accounting and finance has next? You know, we talked about these emerging technologies and data being all over the place, but what would your prediction be as far as what the industry could expect next? 
Katie: (12:20)
Oh my goodness. Well, I definitely don't have a crystal ball. I think we're going to continue to see a lot of small firms popping up because of the technology that enables, you know, a solo practitioner to start their own business. I think that we're also going to see this standard of, you know, the average quality of service that these practitioners provide increase. And I also think that we're going to see the role of the, you know, average accountant, average bookkeeper tax prepare, really transform into the adviser, which that's already happening. But I think as we continue to move forward, it's, it's going to become more and more that just the advisor is what the accountant is thought of rather than ,you know, I'm looking for a bookkeeper, so I contact the accountant. They're going to be looking for a new advisor. 
Announcer: (13:20)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like what you heard and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.