Building a tech stack around your core accounting software: Interview with IncSight

When building a tech stack for your accounting firm, the first step is to start at the core with an accounting software and build out from there with add-ons. Add-ons in general are still underrated by the accounting industry. It’s useful to take a step back every quarter, see what administrative tasks are taking up time and do research to find out what apps can automate these processes.

As part of an interview series we’re running with a range of accounting technologists listed on the Amaka Advisor Directory, we spoke to Mike Jesowshek, Partner at IncSight and Podcast Host at Small Business Tax Savings Podcast. This is number one of four snippets discussing how the US-based accounting firm has used technology to create a better client experience.

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Below, you’ll find the recording of the interview snippet, a summary of key points and the full transcript.

Key points on building an accounting tech stack

  • Start at the core with a basic accounting software such as QuickBooks Online and Xero for US accounting firms
  • Then ask, what type of add-ons can complement that core such as inventory and merchant processor integrations
  • A lot of add-ons aren’t forward facing to the client but work behind the scenes to streamline processes such as with proposal software
  • Every quarter, IncSight reviews where time is being spent (despite not billing by hours) and look for processes that could use automation
  • A lot of the time, integrations are surface level and end up wasting more time
  • Hence, it’s important to go through thorough testing and dig down to the core of each problem

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Full interview transcript with IncSight

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Hi, everyone. Today, I’m joined by Mike Jesowshek, CPA brand ambassador at IncSight and also founder and host of the Small Business Tax Savings Podcast. For those of you who don’t know, IncSight is a full service accounting practice located out of West Palm Beach, Florida, offering accounting, bookkeeping, taxation, payroll and advisory services. Mike and his team are an industry leading practice that puts technology first for small, medium business owners.

Mike also doubles up, as I mentioned, as the founder and host of the Small Business Tax Savings Podcast, which has a mission of helping hardworking business owners overcome complicated taxation rules, which can often lead to over inflated tax bills. Thanks for joining us today, Mike.

Mike Jesowshek (IncSight)

Yeah, thanks for having me. Super exciting.

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Awesome. Awesome. So to kick things off. We’re really keen to understand how IncSight chooses which apps to specialize in. We’ve spoken to a few firms on this, and typically there’s a multi-layered approach that they do take. They try to balance, obviously, those apps that will give them time saving on the more manual, archaic business processes that plague the accounting industry and then also look for those that will increase their business from a, I guess, a proposition basis and then obviously increase margins really came to understand what approach IncSight takes for that.

Mike Jesowshek (IncSight)

Yeah. And I think really it comes down to is first, kind of, finding out what that core is. And so, you know, I think when we look at core, it’s like what does every business owner need? What is something that pretty much everyone has to live by? And so when we look at core, we’re thinking, you know, a basic accounting software is something that can create a profit loss, create a balance sheet.

We’re looking at payroll, we’re looking at tax software and those types of things. And in that core, I feel like something that you have to spend a lot of time in and really kind of feel the software that you want to be as part of your core. And so we spend a lot of time trying out different things as well as, you know, getting to know some of those higher end software providers in that core example is like a Xero or Gusto for payroll and things like that.

So I think that core is something that, you know, whether you’re just starting out in the cloud based or not, that is a piece that you definitely have to take the time in the beginning and find out what software am I going to specialize in. And I think, you know, as it is in many different countries, there’s likely different options.

You know, for example, in the US we have QuickBooks Online and Xero are probably some of the most common. And, you know, we had to make a decision. When we first started our firm, which one were we going to take on it? And say, this is where we’re going to have the core of our financials. So I think that the core piece is one is one part that we look at, but the secondary piece is, okay, now we know we have that core, what type of add-ons are we going to bring in to help complement that core?

You know, Xero does great accounting software, but they might not be good at inventory or they might not be good at pulling in sales transactions from various different merchant processors and things like that. And so when we look at that non-core type software, it really oftentimes going to be industry specific. You know what type of clients we are, what industry they are in and what are their biggest pain points.

And so that’s part of our onboarding process with the client is saying what are the pain points that you’re dealing with right now? You know, you’re coming to us assuming the client’s not brand new and they’ve been in business for a while. They’re coming to us for a reason and that’s either because they had a poor experience at another firm or they weren’t meeting their needs or they were maybe just doing it themselves and felt like they were getting overwhelmed or financials are incorrect or wherever it might be.

So we can look at those core experiences and oftentimes that’s going to lead to a software that can help solve that. And so that when we’re looking at evaluating that, it’s really there’s a lot of different options out there. So it’s kind of looking at the options that are out there testing them out and saying, okay, which one does our team enjoy?

Which one integrates well with our core? And so I think that’s another key piece that once you have your core, you limit some of those options. You might for inventory, have 150 software add on options but now when we’re saying, okay, we’re our core is using Xero, or our core is using QuickBooks, whatever it is. Well, that list might go down to 125 or something like that.

So you’re automatically minimizing that and then you’re saying, okay, which ones integrate the best and how’s it look from there? For us it’s always been cloud based from the beginning. We’re a cloud based firm. We’ve been cloud based since 2013. And so that has always been our key is that if the software is desktop or requires any type of desktop app and desktop apps are fine as long as there’s a cloud version too.

But if it requires that that’s usually something we’re saying, okay, that’s, that’s the software we’re going to put to the side for us.

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Yeah. Okay. So it’s very much a top down approach whereby if we use Xero as an example, just like Xero is the core what, what integrations talk to Xero. What’s going to streamline your business processes into Xero for different clients? And it just said that because you mentioned it’s different sector by sector. So inside obviously doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sectors, right?

It’s serving the mission to help small business owners more broadly. Are there any apps that you typically see or have seen in the past that are just so underrated by other accounting practices that really do help your firm shine above the rest?

Mike Jesowshek (IncSight)

Yeah, and a lot of times it’s, you know, some of those apps aren’t even forward facing or something the client would necessarily see. And, you know, some of the ones that are integral to our business and I almost consider this part of the core. But I’d be surprised when you talk to other accountants, it’s like no they’re not utilizing this type of a software piece and so project management internally in our firm is something that our firm I don’t believe would be able to operate from.

But I look back at when we started and we were using Excel Docs for project management and stuff like that. So I’m like, well, there are people out there other than just getting started. I’ve been doing this for a while that just don’t know the power of stuff that’s out there. So you know, another good example is proposals and getting those out to clients that when you’re presenting a proposal or collecting payment information, things like that, so you know, for project management, we use a software called Teamwork and that has just really been something that ties everything together.

Again, that’s something that’s not really client facing per se, but the client is in a way interacting with it, even though they might not know they are. And the reason I say that is we use Teamwork as a project management system and we also use Teamwork Desk, which is almost like an email management system.

And so whenever a client or anybody reaches out to us via email, it comes into a shared inbox. So anyone on our team can access any of those emails. And then from there we assign out to who it’s related to. So if you reach out to me, you want to contact me, your emails are coming in a shared inbox.

We’re going to assign that to me where then I’m going to respond to you. It also allows us as a team to collaborate on email or a specific ticket without the client having to know about what we’re collaborating on so it’s not forward facing. But also it’s all in one area. So if we ever need to look back and be like, Hey, what did we talk about a year ago?

Or what are some of the conversations that we’ve had recently with this specific client? We can find it all in one area. And so that is one software, and that’s more of an internal piece than an external piece that we have had a lot of success with, as well as that kind of that proposal management.

We used to kind of create everything in a PDF format or a word document, export PDF, send it out and then you’d have to send over a payment collection form and then we destroy that when we get it. And that process was kind of a disaster. And it took me so long to realize how much time that actually was taking out because I’m like, I’ve been doing this for ten years.

It takes me 5 minutes to do that whole process. It’s really not that bad. But when I started to unpeel the things and understand what if we’re automating some pieces of that now that can go and automate other pieces. And that’s where the really aha moment was because we’d get a proposal signed, I’d have to go create a project within our project management.

I have to create the Xero account and go do all these different things where now when you’re starting to make that proposal piece easy from the beginning, you can automate some of those later things that initially I wasn’t, I wasn’t thinking about. I was only thinking about the one problem on the surface level, not drilling down deeper and realizing, hey, there’s more that this is saving outside of just the obvious one, that that is the time has been saved on.

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Yeah. What it’s interesting you say that because, you know, a lot of the processes across the accounting sector, they can literally take 10 hours and there are tools out there that can make it take 5 minutes and I think it comes down to the practice actually taking the time to realize, okay, why is this taking 10 hours and what’s actually out there that could make it take 5 minutes. Is there is there like a is there a process that IncSight goes through when evaluating their business processes, or is it just on an ad hoc basis where you might be sitting there doing a proposal on, you know, we’re talking to you like this needs to be streamlined or this needs to be fast tracked? Or is it something that you and your team sit down on a monthly, quarterly basis to discuss?

Mike Jesowshek (IncSight)

Yeah, it’s often every quarter we kind of look at it and we don’t track anything by time. We don’t bill anything by time but as part of that, we track time on everything that we do so that we kind of know where our time is being spent and where we can make that better. And as part of that, we kind of look at different areas.

You know, how much is being spent on administrative duties and is there something that we can pull out of there? Or we look at a specific client and we’re saying, hey, this client, the hours for this specific client really popped up last month. Why is that? And Oh, it’s a bank reconciliation thing or you know, we have Stripe or we’re reconciling it manually and so when you kind of dig into that, that’s where you’re starting to find some of these aha moments of, okay, we, we have a problem here.

Now, we don’t necessarily know the solution yet, but we know that there’s probably options out there for the solution. Let’s start vetting them. I think that’s the key part is that there are so many, many different apps out there that do it generally at a surface level, the same thing. And it’s really kind of testing those out, but then drilling down deeper to say, okay, at the surface level, they’re the same, but in reality they’re not.

And we see that a lot in integrations. So we’ll test an app and integration with the software. Our caller is really not great. Like it does what it says it’s supposed to do. But when we look into reality, we’re still spending more time than we need than we need to be even with that integration. And so that is one thing that even, you know, we don’t just go into stuff and be like, okay, this is our this is our software.

Our goal is to test this thing out in real life and let’s see what time we are saving from it and do a direct comparison before and after. And if we’re still saying like that, our seems high, this seems like this can be so much more simplified. Let’s try to peel back the layers. And so I always say, and this goes with every problem or thing that’s slowing down is we want to get to the root cause and more likely than not, that root cause is not the initial problem that you thought you had.

You think you have a problem with customer service. You might have no problems with customer service, but there’s something else within your processes that is causing the problem with customer service. And so it’s that the hardest part I think is looking beyond that initial thing and trying to figure out what is actually behind the layers like and what’s deep down to that core of what’s going on. Well, why are we having this problem?

Gian Ottavio (Amaka)

Yeah, no, that’s a really interesting point.