You need a Point-of-Sale. You saw that it’s easy to set up. Now you can try it for free.

Recently, I wrote a post about the need for a quality Point-of-Sale system for any company that expects walk-in traffic. I then posted about the effort required to install the Fishbowl Point-of-Sale system (SalesPoint) and showed that, at least for me, it wasn’t too hard to do. I had it up and running in about two hours with minimal hassles. So what, you say? Well, I write these posts for a purpose, and the purpose with these two posts was to get people to try SalesPoint. And, along with that effort, we are announcing that throughout the second quarter (April-June, 2012) we will be giving away a copy of SalesPoint with every purchase of Fishbowl Inventory (a $1,095 savings).

Remember that SalesPoint is a module that is installed once, and is activated like a light-switch. You turn it on and it’s ready to go. And the number of users on SalesPoint is based solely on the number of users in your copy of Fishbowl Inventory. If you have a 10-user copy of Fishbowl Inventory then you can have up to 10 people using SalesPoint at any given time. It’s that easy.

But for those of you who already own a copy of Fishbowl Inventory, you may rightly point out that Fishbowl already has a Sales Order module. So when do you need the Fishbowl Sales Order module and when do you need SalesPoint? Think of the Fishbowl Sales Order module as a sales tracking module for those who need to collect detailed information about the buyer, add changes to the product information on the Sales Order, include custom or service type transactions, etc. This is what our internal Fishbowl sales team uses to track its sales because custom changes are often required, notes need to be included, details on services need to be provided and often payments will be spread out over months so that information needs to be included. In other words, selling Fishbowl software and services typically is NOT a simple, standard transaction. It often requires a substantial amount of individual data entry by the sales person and many other industries tend to be the same way: Car or equipment sales, custom sales, big ticket items, most service sales, or any sale where it is critical for the seller to collect detailed information on the buyer.

Point-of-Sale, on the other hand is designed specifically to simplify and automate the sales process as much as possible. In other words, with Point-of-Sale, you don’t necessarily care who the customer is, just so long as they can efficiently pay for whatever is purchased, while you, the seller, can still properly track the outflow of product from inventory and the inflow of revenues. Part numbers are barcoded in, there is little or no custom interaction from the sales person, and payment is usually made on the spot, i.e. cash, credit card, check, etc. Think of a typical retail outlet where speed and efficiency are key. If that is the scenario you find yourself in then a Point-of-Sale is what you need and you’ll never get a better deal than free, so give us a call now at 1-800-774-7085 x2. Your Fishbowl salesperson will be happy to help.

Till next time.

Posted in Business Consulting, Business Management Software, QuickBooks Consulting, QuickBooks Inventory | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

At Fishbowl it’s a brave new world and the sky’s the limit…

In 1983 Scott Cook founded Intuit. Its first product was Quicken, a small package for writing checks and tracking account balances (at least that’s what it did when they first started). It was a runaway success. I won’t go into the reasons why it was successful. Suffice to say people liked it and Quicken quickly took over the check-writing market.

But, like most successful entrepreneurs, Scott wasn’t satisfied and saw many new opportunities on the horizon like, maybe, accounting software for small businesses. Using Quicken as a base, they added more accounting capabilities. That’s where QuickBooks came in and eventually ended up penetrating over 80% of the U.S. accounting market for small business. In spite of numerous attempts by competitors (like Microsoft!) Intuit has stayed in command of the small business accounting market for nearly 30 years now. So how did they do it? That’s at least a couple dissertations worth so I’m going to focus on just one small part…

Every software developer knows that the moment you release your software package is the moment your customers start asking for enhancements. You listen. You prioritize. You make judgments as to what markets you want to focus on, but at the end of the day, you can’t do it all. Even companies like Intuit can’t do it all, so one approach to opening new markets is to get others to develop solutions for you by providing a way for 3rd-party developers to create solutions that will work with your solution. That’s what Intuit did when they released their SDK (software developer’s kit) in 2001. There are now over 400 software solutions that integrate with QuickBooks and, as a result, QuickBooks has been able to enter many more markets (bigger companies, broader range of products and services, etc.) than they were able to enter before. Fishbowl is one of those 3rd-party solutions that has allowed Intuit to enter these new markets.

But accounting is a HUGE market! Every business needs accounting, adding up to hundreds of millions of businesses worldwide. So when Fishbowl comes along to provide advanced inventory control and manufacturing software to QuickBooks users, the potential Fishbowl market is STILL enormous. In the U.S. alone the number of businesses that could potentially use Fishbowl Inventory is around 350,000. As a result, the demand for enhancements to Fishbowl is much greater than we can develop in house and so Fishbowl has opened up its software to integration with 3rd party apps via our SDK and we are putting resources towards this effort via our new Fishbowl Partner Nation and Fishbowl Developer Network.

Fishbowl Partner Nation
According to Ian Bird, our VP over the Partner Nation, “We intend to create logical relationships with companies that result in mutual lead and revenue sharing opportunities.” In some instances, where the 3rd party solution helps close a Fishbowl sale, Fishbowl will sell that solution directly and pay the developer. Examples of solutions where Fishbowl currently sells 3rd-party solutions include report writing provided by FishBooks Pro, and LilyPad, a platform that allows Fishbowl to be run remotely on today’s mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Solutions for EDI integration, data migration, Web store integration, and much more are being developed and integrated with Fishbowl.

Ian is also developing a section on our website where these 3rd-party applications can be advertised and promoted directly to the Fishbowl customer base (similar to the Intuit Solution’s Marketplace). He is projecting the marketplace will be ready around August.

Fishbowl Developer Network
The Fishbowl Developer Network is the technical side of the Partner Nation. It focuses primarily on the development and technical support of the Fishbowl SDK. Matt Sharp is the manager of this effort and he works closely with 3rd-party developers to ensure that their application is integrating properly with Fishbowl. According to Matt, “When you join our network, you receive all the tools you need to connect to the Fishbowl Application Programming Interface (API) and start creating your own apps for Fishbowl.”

With the Fishbowl Partner Nation and the Developer Network, Fishbowl is quickly moving into its next stage of growth.  Wherever a market exists for advanced inventory control and manufacturing, Fishbowl is putting all the pieces in place for a fast and focused entry into that market.  Stay with us as the opportunities continue to expand.

Till next time…

Posted in QuickBooks Inventory | Leave a comment

Today’s topic: Is Kevin a liar? Or is setting up the Fishbowl Point-of-Sale (SalesPoint) easy?

Last week I posted about a walk-in store or, more accurately, the LACK of one when there should have been one. I had visited a small chocolate factory that didn’t have a Point-of-Sale system and my point was, if you’ve got a product that people want to buy, and a location they want to visit, why not set one up and sell more product? I made it sound like well, duh, this is easy, why doesn’t everyone do it! But, as I thought about it later, I realized I had NEVER set up a Point-of-Sale before, so who am I to make judgments on whether or not it’s easy?

So I went to Kevin Batchelor, our Head of Development, and asked him if it was easy to set up a Point-of-Sale. He said yes. (We can talk later about the wisdom of asking the Head of Development if setting up a particular piece of technical hardware/software is easy or not but, for now, I will take him at his word). In fact, he said, I can go dig our Touchscreen POS Kit hardware out of the junk room (AKA The Fishbowl Room-of-Requirement) and try it out for myself. It’s that black computer-looking thing in the middle.

So that’s what I did. Now, I haven’t done a Fishbowl demo in over four years and I have NEVER even looked at Fishbowl SalesPoint, so I figured if I could set it up, without instructions on the hardware, and only a basic understanding of the software, anyone could do it. Kevin assured me that all the required hardware for SalesPoint was sitting right there; cash register, scanner, printer, touchscreen, optional LCD Customer Display, and all the required cables and powercords. So, for the sake of authenticity,  I hauled it all down to my office, (here’s what it looked like right after I dropped it all on my desk), and hooked everything up the way I thought it should go, (which I had to guess at because I had no instructions.)

To clarify a few things, let me show what comes with the Fishbowl Touchscreen POS Kit:

The main monitor you see here is the Touchscreen/computer monitor for the POS with attached credit card reader (that’s the little part that sticks out on the side). It’s actually a small desktop computer that uses a Touchscreen as the monitor and has a credit card reader attached to the monitor on the right side. (Like any desktop computer, it comes with a keyboard and mouse). When the system is being used as a Point-of-Sale system (as intended), the user creates the Sales Order on the touchscreen and makes sure everything is correct before taking payment via the credit card reader or cash drawer.

The transaction will appear on the Optional LCD Customer Display, which is the small display screen you see attached to the back side of the touchscreen and facing towards the customer. It’s just like those customer displays you see at your local Walmart.

Cash Drawer: It’s a black metal box with a cash drawer inside that slides out when you need to accept cash or provide change.

Receipt Printer: A simple straightforward receipt printer. It’s connected directly to the Point-of-Sale Screen/computer via cable. It also has a cable that connects from the printer to the cash drawer to tell the drawer when to open up.

Scanner: A simple “wedge” type scanner that attaches via a cable directly to the POS Screen/computer.

Frankly, I just hooked these up the way I thought they should go. I mean, there are only so many cables and connections, so I gave it my best shot and hooked them up. It seemed rather simple, which usually means I missed something.

Installing the Fishbowl SalesPoint software
This was a little more challenging, not because of the software, but because of our network connections (or lack thereof). In order for SalesPoint to work, it has to be able to communicate with your Fishbowl database, which I am currently running on my local computer. But I only have one connection to our network (I’m in a building that’s a bit on the older side), and the Point of Sale hardware does not have a wireless connection. So I set my computer up to go wireless and gave my regular network connection to the Point-of-Sale computer. The Point-of-Sale was then able to download a trial copy of SalesPoint from our website (Yes, you only need to download SalesPoint, not Fishbowl).

SalesPoint then needs to be told where to find the Fishbowl database. For me, this was the IP address for my laptop computer that was running a trial copy of Fishbowl. When I logged in to SalesPoint I was able to scroll down through the IP addresses of all the copies of Fishbowl currently connected to our network (either via cable, or wireless as mine was) but couldn’t find mine. So I asked one of our tech guys for help. (If you’ve seen “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, that was my “Lifeline”).  Apparently, my IP address was fairly long and so the entire address didn’t show up on the screen.  I just had to scroll over to see it all.

Running Point of Sale: Hardware hooked up, software installed. Let’s give it a shot!

If you’re anything like me, the second you get your latest techno-toy even partially hooked up, you HAVE to turn it on and see if it’s working, period. No waiting around, no more reading manuals (they’re all evil anyway). I just want to see the thing work. So I grabbed the first thing I could find with a barcode on it (a can of fishfood) and scanned it in. Drum roll please….. It worked!  The barcode had just been read in and SalesPoint was now asking me what the item was (which made sense since my sample database didn’t have any fishfood in it). So, I typed in the name, description, quantity on hand, how much it cost and how much I was selling it for. Once that was done, the item showed up on my screen. As a test, I scanned it again to see what would happen. This time it simply increased the quantity of fishfood cans on the order to 2 and calculated the total cost, which is exactly what I expected. I then scanned in three other items to see how it would work.  Again, no problem.

Finally, I finished the order, touched Check-out, (remember this IS a Touchscreen), paid with cash, and as soon as the order was complete, the cash drawer opened up and the printer printed the receipt.  Here’s the picture to prove it.  Perfect!

About two hours with the network hassle, maybe an hour without it.  Kevin,  I’ll never doubt you again.

PS Thanks to Kirk for taking the pictures!

Till next time!

Posted in Business Consulting, QuickBooks Consulting | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

You’ve got product. You’ve got a facility. Do you have a walk-in store?

How many of your clients manufacture or wholesale a consumer product of one type or another but don’t bother setting up a decent walk-in store for those who just want to buy direct? Let’s face it, not everyone wants to look at pictures online to buy something. And often the product they want is a niche product that wouldn’t show up at your typical mall or Walmart. Do you think maybe some customers might want to come by for a visit if you gave them that opportunity? I think so. So why not make it easy for them?

Case in point: Last year I saw an article in the paper regarding a local “Artisan” chocolate manufacturer who had won numerous international awards for their chocolate. This surprised me because for me, “local” is Orem, UT and I would be hard-pressed to think of a less likely location for a “world-class artisan chocolatier” than Orem, UT. But what do I know? So, out of curiosity, at lunch that day I decided to go look them up and buy some chocolate.

Let me be clear, they had a nice website where they sold their chocolates, both wholesale and retail. And I guess, if I wanted, I could have found out what high-end retail stores carried their products at the mall and gone there to buy some. But their facility was reasonably close and I just wanted to stop by to see what they had. Obviously, this was not a practical decision. Twenty minutes to drive over and find the place (I’m too cheap to buy a GPS and directions are for sissies), another 10 minutes to get what I want (closer to 20 minutes with the wait), and then another 15 minutes to drive back. I suppose “practical” would mean I would have bought online (or not at all), but the article in the paper piqued my curiosity and sometimes I just want to go see the product first-hand. I think a lot of potential customers think the same way.

Their factory was a small facility in an industrial section of town that didn’t look a whole lot different from any of the other small manufacturers and wholesalers in that neighborhood. In fact, I drove past several times before I saw their sign. When I went in, they had a few of their products sitting on shelves in the office and they had a front desk with a glass case where they kept a few trays of their chocolates for sale. At the counter, there was a woman looking at a laptop computer, trying to figure out how to enter the credit card information for the customer currently at the head of the line. As the woman worked through the other three people in line (I’m guessing they read the article, too), it became apparent to me that this store really hadn’t planned for many walk-in customers so they hadn’t bothered to set up a more practical Point-of-Sale system. The orders were written up by hand on paper, and when anyone tried to pay by credit card everything ground to a halt as she entered the information, again by hand, into her laptop to run the payment. Since I work for a company that provides Point-of-Sale and Inventory Control and Manufacturing software, I asked her what they used. She didn’t know if they used anything for their inventory and they certainly didn’t have an automated Point-of-Sale system, just a laptop with a connection for taking credit card payments.

Frankly, my first impression was not a good one, not because they weren’t using our software or because their product wasn’t any good, but because I hate waiting. It seemed, at best, they just didn’t know what they were doing or, at worst, they weren’t all that interested in my business.

But why should it be that way?

Many of Fishbowl’s customers are in a similar situation. They have from 5 to 100+ employees, they have a great product that they sell online or wholesale, and they have a facility, sometimes multiple facilities, where they produce or store their products. But when it comes to providing a simple store where local customers can just stop by and purchase products first-hand, most don’t do it, and I think they are missing a great opportunity. Maybe it’s the perceived cost. Maybe it’s the fear of setting up a new system. Maybe they just don’t know what is needed, and they have bigger fish to fry anyway with their online or wholesale business. But I say, why turn anyone away when they WANT to give you money?

Next time, to address some of the above-mentioned concerns, I’ll go over exactly what is involved in setting up a simple Fishbowl Point-of-Sale store for your clients. The opportunity is there for both you and your clients and it’s a LOT easier and straightforward than you may think.

Till next time!

Posted in Business Management Software | Tagged | 2 Comments

Screw-ups, honest but misguided attempts, and Random Acts of God…

For those entrepreneurial types out there, do you ever look at a successful company and get a little intimidated? Maybe you think “Wow, look at all they’ve accomplished! That’s way beyond what I could ever do”. Success IS intimidating but remember, you’re looking at the company the way it is now, not the way it started. Scott Cook, the founder of Intuit, tells a story of when they ran their first QuickBooks ad. It was a half-page, professionally-created ad, in an accounting magazine with a one-million readership:

It generated 4 calls. Scott, I feel your pain.

I LOVE this story because I can relate to it. I envision Scott sitting there in his little office, listening to some ad guy’s marketing ideas and Scott saying “Uh… okay!” I KNOW that feeling. Sometimes, whether it’s Marketing, Development, who to hire, what direction to go, etc., you just don’t know what the answer is, so you give it a shot and see what happens. You can’t be so afraid of a bad decision that you are unwilling to make the call. In this case, Scott gave it a shot, realized it didn’t work, (pretty easy with only 4 calls), and kept trying new things until something did. He then went after it, learned from the mistakes, made improvements along the way, listened to his customers and kept moving forward. Intuit is the result. (That’s a pretty condensed version, but good enough for my purposes.)

So today I want to talk about some of the odd-events, screw-ups, and misguided sales/marketing/development efforts in Fishbowl’s history, not to cry over spilled milk, but to let everyone know that, in the time-honored tradition of successful businesses, we’ve had our growing pains, too.

NEAR MISSES: The Early Years or Gotta Sell Somethin’!
It’s easy to look at Fishbowl now and say well, duh, OBVIOUSLY you should have gone after the QuickBooks market. Remember, in 2002, there was no QB-integrated market because the QB SDK wasn’t even released until late in 2002 and THEN we had to start development on the integration. So what do you do when you have no official product to sell and only a HOPE of something that MAY be available some time the following year? You get creative and try things out:

Eve: The Event Manager. Don’t know what that means? OK, how about “The chunk of code that provides the communication between the client and the server”. Still don’t know what that means? Well, that’s too bad because that’s about where I tapped out. Our Head of Development at the time was so proud of Eve he thought we could sell it to other companies that had heavy database issues to deal with (and Fishbowl w/QB integration wasn’t ready yet). I didn’t think so, but I called “The eBay Store”, Overstock.com, and Disney’s Imagineering (I think he knew someone, who knew someone, etc.), to see what they had to say. They said no.

Grocery Guys: Sold a $45k contract to a local grocery delivery business to modify Fishbowl to take and pick orders for them. Development was originally on board with the idea, but we all lost interest as soon as Fishbowl w/QB integration was ready to go. We moved on.

Medical Rental Module: Sold a $35k contract to develop rental capabilities within Fishbowl for a local medical equipment rental company. We built a beta version of it, which at the time probably consisted of our beta version of Fishbowl with “Rental Version” written in italics. We might have pulled it off, too, but the customer apparently purchased the wrong server and couldn’t get Fishbowl to run at all.

Direct Competitor to Mass90: Our original founder planned to build a product to directly compete with Mass90 by selling individual modules from $10k-$60k each.

Fishbowl Multi-user as a separate package

Note: I’m glad none of these worked or we would be an entirely different company today or, more likely, unemployed.

MARKETING: How do you like my new logo?
It takes a while to figure the branding out. Company name, logo, tag lines, whatever.  Some directions we took were really bad.  We were originally called Eventronix. I don’t know how the original founder arrived at the name, (or the logo for that matter) other than it sounds and looks vaguely tech-ish.

Eventronix original logo

Beautifully done. Conveys, at a glance what we do and is easily remembered… I’m kidding. It sucked.

In 2002 we moved to Fishbowl as the company name and paid a professional to create the logo.

OK, be honest. Does this remind you of a fishbowl ‘cause that’s what it was supposed to do! I thought it was obvious, but apparently no one told our customers. Three years after we started using it I thought it might be a good idea to ask them. Only two got it right.

As much as I hated the Eventronix name and logo it took years to clean it out of all our marketing. Even now, in the dark recesses of our company archives, you can find it moldering away on some long-forgotten file.

This is where my bloodshot eyes come from.  Blurry white letters on bright yellow.  Ouch:

STOCHASTICITY – the quality of lacking any predictable order or plan (kind of like this blog post)  Random things happen in business, some good, some bad and you can’t really plan for them.  The best you can hope for is to get more random good than bad or, at least, mitigate the bad.

Paid the BYU MBA dept. $10k to figure out which features QuickBooks users needed.  Here’s what they said. (In retrospect we probably could have figured this out on our own by making a few phone calls):

  • Full-scale inventory control for QuickBooks
  • Unlimited items and users
  • Technical support (did we have any then?)
  • Labor tracking
  • Bar coding
  • An MRP system
  • Bids and estimates
  • RMAs and outsource repair tracking

From 2001 to 2004 we moved 4 times

SWIM(Shop, Warehouse and Inventory Manager):  This was supposed to be a barcoding system that would work within Fishbowl.  It was developed by the original founder of Fishbowl. When Dave Williams, our current CEO, came on in 2004, we talked him into paying the original founder of Fishbowl $50k for it.  He did.  It didn’t work.

CAN I GET MY $250 BACK???
In 2002 when we released Fishbowl 1.0 we had almost no money. So when a door-to-door salesman came by selling a $250 ad space for one of those coupon books that they mail out once a month I figured we could at least reach some people here in Utah. We got ONE call from the mailer. That was to Backyard Adventures, a high-end playground equipment retailer. We ended up selling around $50k to them and their franchisees around the country and hired away the following six employees:

Head of Development: Kevin Batchelor
Executive VP of Sales: John David King
VP of Customer Satisfaction: John Erickson
Director of Fishbowl Developer Network: Matt Sharp
Developer: Taylor Burton

Terry Sharp: Has since left Fishbowl

FYI: So what ad got six smart and capable guys to give us a call?  Here you go:

And that’s the way it went.  Trying things. Finding our way.  Making mistakes.  Avoiding the REALLY big mistakes and moving forward.

Till next time!

Posted in Business Consulting, QuickBooks Consulting, QuickBooks Manufacturing | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

How Does a Consultant Best Work with Fishbowl?

I get asked multiple variations of this question on a daily basis and I totally understand why. Fishbowl is a big chunk of software, and with our new CRM release, Fishbowl Pipeline, it is only getting bigger. So a consultant who works with us can, rightly, be a bit overwhelmed by all that Fishbowl provides, especially if Fishbowl is NOT the central part of their business. With this in mind, let me show you what we at Fishbowl have done to make working with us as simple as possible:

You Are Assigned Your Own Salesperson: Just give us a call and you will be assigned a salesperson.  Nothing will help you more in working with Fishbowlthan your salesperson. They answer all the questions, do all the demos for you and, if it’s a good fit, make the sale. If you really want to know if Fishbowl is a good fit for a client but don’t know what to tell them, then give your Fishbowl salesperson a call. Some of these guys have done thousands of demos and have been asked every conceivable question and know all the answers.  (Seriously, they really do.)  At Fishbowl, it’s HARD to get on the salesteam and only the best make it. These people are far and away your best resource.

FYI: All Fishbowl salespeople are taught to be very mindful of how you, the consultant, want to work with us. Do you want to keep all the QB consulting work? Do you want to be in on the demos? Do you want the sale to come directly through you or maybe just give the discount to your client? Just let us know and we’ll work with you.

Fishbowl Links with YOUR tracking information:  I am often asked “How can I be certain that leads we send to Fishbowl are registered in my name?”  The short answer is you can’t be absolutely certain because people can contact us many different ways, BUT we can customize any Fishbowl link that you may want to use so that any lead that comes to us from that link will be registered in your name.  Take a look at this link:

Learn More about Fishbowl. Its URL is http://www.fishbowlinventory.com/learn-more/?utm_campaign=Your-Name&utm_source=Referrer.  In other words, you can choose any Fishbowl link you prefer and we can customize it so that anyone who uses the link to come to our website will be registered as your lead.  Just let us know and we’ll set it up for you.

Additional Resources:  You may not have noticed, but at the bottom of the Fishbowl Referrer Page is a section called Resources. Here they are, along with a short description of each:

Fishbowl Overview Sheet: Two-page Fishbowl brochure. Says where Fishbowl Inventory is a good fit, what it adds to QuickBooks and has a great diagram showing HOW it works with QuickBooks.
Fishbowl Enterprise Overview Sheet: Two-page brochure about Fishbowl Enterprise our first real step into the lower mid-market.
Fishbowl Product Info Sheet: Detailed list of features provided by Fishbowl Inventory, Fishbowl Manufacturing, Salespoint, Fishbowl Warehouse Manager, etc.
Case Studies: Link to our case studies page. Lots of great examples here.
Training Videos: Detailed training videos on every aspect of Fishbowl. New ones being added all the time.

Content for your website or email blasts:

 

Posted in Business Consulting, Computer Training, IT Consulting, QuickBooks Consulting, QuickBooks Inventory, QuickBooks Manufacturing, Small business manufacturing | Leave a comment

It’s tax season and you’re a CPA. Does it get any better?

It’s been our experience at Fishbowl that most people who refer clients to us are CPAs. Why is this? I think the reason is that for a CPA to do the best job for a client, they need to know the most intimate details of a company. Is the client profitable? If so, how profitable? Where are they having problems? What are the client’s prospects for the coming year? What are their costs? Will they be expanding into new markets? How much will that cost? What problems do they anticipate? The answers to all of these questions could have a profound impact on how much a company pays in taxes and how they should handle their finances in the coming year, so the business owner tends to open up about everything in the business when the CPA comes by.

And it’s not just the need to manage their finances properly that motivates business owners to share everything. I think it’s also partially due to the fact that small to mid-sized businesses simply don’t have the time or money to pay for a specialist consultant to come in and help them with their problems, so they look to their CPA as a trusted, intelligent, and already paid for professional that they can open up to and get some good advice.

On a smaller scale, with our personal finances, my wife and I do exactly the same thing when we go to our CPA each year. Like many people in our situation, we have a variety of income sources and lots of different expenses with complex tax implications for each, but we just haven’t been willing (so far) to pay for an outside financial consultant who we don’t know yet to help point us in the right direction. I think this may change in 2012 but, for now, our CPA is who we go to for all our financial and business advice.

What surprises me is how often our CPA COULD help us, (and we’d be happy to pay him for it because we trust him), or at least point us in the right direction, but he just doesn’t take the initiative. Maybe he’s not comfortable giving us advice.  Maybe legally he can’t, or just doesn’t want to. Maybe he’s not confident in his abilities. He’s a very competent and nice guy. He knows his taxes inside and out, but at the end of the day, all I see (from my salesperson background) is a lost sales opportunity for him.  If he asked the right questions and showed a little more interest in our financial future, he could conceivably have us come in multiple times during the year for advice, or refer us to reliable consultants in other fields who then might be referring their clients with accounting needs back to him.  All that’s needed on his end is a little foresight and a willingness to ask a few pertinent questions.

What does any of this have to do with those who refer Fishbowl?  Well, if you are a CPA, and it appears that most who refer Fishbowl are, chances are that you are already into the thick of tax season and you’ll be communicating with every one of your clients, in detail, about their business, which makes this a golden opportunity to look for new ways to help their business (and your business) grow.  This is the time when your clients come to YOU and want to give YOU information!  How cool is that?  This being the case, why not take the time to ask a few more questions?  (Most of the following questions are courtesy of an article I found in CPA Trendlines)

  • How can we help build your business?
  • How do our firm’s solutions help your efficiency and your service to your own customers or clients?
  • How can we serve you more effectively?
  • What’s changed in your business over the last 12 months? (You should know most of these answers already if you’ve done your homework.)
  • What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenges for the coming year?

All of these questions are designed to help your client open up and give you more insight into what’s going on in their business.  In every response you should be looking for opportunities where you can help, either by offering your own services or by pointing them towards someone who can help.  For each answer you should have a set of followup questions designed to get to the core of your client’s issues.

And once you’ve determined the issue, you should have a list of potential solutions available to suggest.  Fishbowl is just one potential solution of many you should have at your fingertips for the right opportunity.  Your clients are waiting for answers that only you can offer them. Don’t be shy. Carpe diem!

Posted in Business Consulting, Business Management Software | Leave a comment