Sean Duffy, CPA, CMA, is the Senior Manager at Elevate by Welch. We interviewed him to find out more about his career so far using cloud applications and software to serve his clients, to manage his firm, and ask him about the future of finance, tech, accounting, and everything in between.
First, a little about Elevate by Welch:
Welch LLP is a Chartered Public Accounting firm that has been in business for more than 100 years. The firm offers a wide range of accounting, tax and advisory services to private enterprises, government and not-for-profit businesses.
In 2020, Welch LLP created a new business line called Elevate by Welch LLP, a cloud-based accounting solution (CAS). The new cloud-based business offers small and mid sized businesses a full range of accounting, advisory and tax services using cutting-edge cloud technologies.
- Location(s): Ottawa and Toronto Ontario
- Year established: 1918 – Welch LLP has been in business for more than 100 years. Elevate by Welch is its new CAS business line which is less than one year old
- Industries: Any and all industries
- Services offered: Cloud accounting, Tax, Advisory, M&A, Cross-Border, International
- Started using QuickBooks: Roughly since inception of QuickBooks Online Accountant
What advice would you give to new firms entering into the Client Accounting Services space?
Starting a cloud-based accounting firm or a CAS business line within a firm is a unique opportunity to build something that will have a major positive impact in clients lives from Day 1. As CPA firms are forced to expand, there is an opportunity to capitalize on this. However, firms entering this space need to be ready for some long term challenges.
Due to the nature of our business and due to the nature of being a mostly new service in this space, we need to be able to mitigate those challenges by thinking of new ways to solve problems that have traditionally been solved by large management teams. We also must use that time to work with and learn from the partners and other areas of the firm.
How has it changed your client relationships?
Since many of our client relationships begin through referrals, the ones we get from Elevate by Welch have a longer life expectancy. As people get to know us and see what we can do for them in terms of being able to access our accounting systems and expertise while saving them money, they tend to stay with us. We don’t just provide bookkeeping services, but we provide advisory, day-to-day support and management as well as the bookkeeping.
How has the technology your new firm is using enabled you to save clients time and money and provide these added services?
Technology now allows us to be nimble and efficient. With just a few clicks, people can use our cloud accounting service from their desktop and in most cases from their smartphone as well. This enables us to provide high quality service quickly and efficiently all the while reducing costs. We have built a system that is easy to use so even those with little knowledge of accounting tools can get the full benefits.
Clients have a clear picture of where they stand financially every month. This helps them make better decisions for their business as well as their family. In addition to this, we are able to manage our resources better by having visibility into the tasks that each of our staff is working on at any given time and are able to show progress and status to the client.
What are some of the unique challenges you have faced?
The big one is finding ways to connect with clients on their tech level which means using technology that they are familiar with. Many people have a preconceived notion that they need to use the “Microsoft” suite of products. We try to show them that they can be using a customized & easy to understand cloud-accounting ecosystem with QuickBooks Online at its core – and save money and time.
What do you see as some of the biggest opportunities moving forward?
Our CAS business is only getting bigger and better. We are able to be more efficient in a business that has been notoriously inefficient due to the way it was run in the past. Today, we can automate much of the data ingestion – and we are using that time to build a real team. We are also trying to become better at managing our client relationships through new and innovative tools designed for the CAS space. It will be the way of the future for many accounting services.
A few examples of cloud-based tools we are using with our clients:
- Fathomhq: Comprehensive financial intelligence, performance reporting, dashboards and consolidations. With this tool, we can help our clients gain business insights and make better decisions with easy-to-understand visual reports and dashboards. Fathomhq is deeply integrated with QuickBooks so you can access your financial data from anywhere.
- Knowify/Jobber/BuilderTrend: These apps are designed for small and large construction companies, owner-operators, contractors, consultants and other trades professionals. They combine their capabilities with QuickBooks Online to create the most advanced mobile quoting and job costing solutions available today – giving users the ability to run their business from virtually anywhere; whether they’re on the go or in their office, on any device (PC, Mac, iPad, Android tablet or smartphone).
What have been some of the challenges that have come with this new world?
The way of working in a small firm or a traditional firm is no longer relevant. Most of our challenges have been figuring out new ways of doing business. We need to figure out how to scale a business without overstaffing, and we need to have more access to people who understand technology and the way our clients think.
Do you have any advice to give to people entering this industry?
Think of what you want your firm to be known for – is it the quality of the service you provide? Is it the very fact that you are in a CAS business or an advisory business? It might be both, but take some time to figure out what you want to be known for because if you cannot answer those questions, you will have a hard time finding your niche and market. If you are just starting in this industry, it may be hard to predict where this industry is going – that said, I would say to focus on building a foundation of good relationships with your clients and their needs.
Want to connect with Elevate by Welch? Follow them on LinkedIn.