This last week the LedgerSync Team attended The Scaling New Heights Conference in San Antonio, TX. Organized by Joe Woodard and sponsored by Intuit, the conference brings together some of the countries best educators, sponsors, and accountants in 5 days of learning and networking. This was the first conference our new software LedgerSync was attending this year (we actually launched our software there) and we had really high hopes of not only showing off our new product but also to meet some of the attendees and other software companies serving the accounting industry. At the end of the day, I got so much more and learned that this conference is a “must go” for accounting professionals.
As a CPA of more than 15 years and having owned a CPA firm for 13 years, I have been to many accounting conferences. Mostly because of state requirements that mandate Certified Public Accountants receive a minimum of 40 hours of CPE training each year. So I have been going to gatherings like these for most of my professional life, but this was the first time I had been to SNH. I quickly learned that this event, this true meeting of the minds, was very different from anything I had ever been to previously and I want to emphasize that if you are an independent accountant, bookkeeper, CPA or other accounting professional you need to see it to really understand what it is. I am going to touch on several aspects of what makes the conference so great, but for every topic I cover there will be several that I don’t and that you can only understand by attending yourself.
The iPhone App
The first of these reasons to attend Scaling New Heights started a good 2 weeks before the event. They call it “The SNH 2014 iPhone app” but we knew it as “The Feed”. The geniuses behind the app is a company called Double Dutch, and I can tell you it really makes the experience at a conference 1000 times better. The Feed is an app for iPhone, iPads, or android devices that would remind you of Twitter, Facebook, and a customer/sponsor portal all wrapped up into one wonderful, always on, always updating tool.
As I said before, this app went active almost 2 weeks before the event. Released to both attendees and sponsors, everyone began posting about their “pre-conference” experiences. Some would show what they were packing, others would ask questions about different classes and which classes they should cram in (SNH has about 8 classes for every period so you have no chance of seeing everything, you would need to go to the conference for 5 weeks to see them all).
Sponsors were able to preview their products and attendees could map out who they were going to see and discuss networking events. Also inside the app was a point system, rewarding you for posting with the top 10 point leaders getting some fantastic prizes. This facilitated almost a frantic pace of posting and turns the feed into a never ending treasure trove of what people are learning, seeing, and doing both day and night. Several attendees did not know anyone when they arrived only to have 100 new friends by the time they left, all thanks to this app connecting people.
I found myself almost mesmerized by the feed of information coming in from 7am to 11pm every day and night. Agendas, Maps, Leaderboard (for the points), Surveys, and Descriptions of Sponsors were all in there and while the first 2 weeks before the conference had a steady stream of information coming at me, when the conference began the activity exploded and between the classes and the app you always had something to do. Even after the conference was over and there were no prizes to win, the posts kept coming and really contributed to the “community” feel this conference has.
The Classes Are Awesome
Another aspect of SNH that is VERY different is the content of the classes. Each class lasts about 60-90 minutes. You start early in the morning (7am) and go to about 4 classes a day. Also there are “General Sessions” that everyone goes to (huge hall, thousands of people) to hear speakers from the big companies: Intuit, Tallie, Joe Woodard, Right Networks- just to name a few. You get to hear from the CEO’s and management of the software companies you deal with every day. You then often get Q&A sessions where attendees can ask questions of the speakers which is really a great part of Scaling New Heights, this feeling of “Access” to everyone there. I was able to attend the session with the president of Intuit, Brad Smith, who took questions from the crowd for about an hour. Really good stuff.
Back to the class content- listen to some of these titles: Bank Feeds Master, QuickBooks for Non Profits, Fraud: The Art of the Steal, Building a Customer Focused Business Dashboard, Excels Best Commands, Leveraging Your Time and Talents by Working Smarter- That is just a few of them. Now where are you going to get that kind of class anywhere else? The classes I go to for my CPE is something like: Business Entities, or 1040 Day 1. BORING… That is why I say this conference makes you money. The topics are first class tickets to how to engage your clients and bring in more billable work. How to leverage software to make your day easier. Isn’t that what you really want to know? SNH strikes at the heart of the boring seminar and puts the fun back into learning.
Now I knew I was in for something very different the first day of the conference when I saw some ladies that had made t shirts with a picture of the conference organizer Joe Woodard on them. I have been to rock concerts, Wal-Mart shareholders meetings, and baseball games, but this crowd can compete with them all. They love Joe, his staff, the fellow accountants that are there, the sponsors, I mean everyone. If there were not cheers and people laughing and having a good time, then the room was empty because these people loved everything around them.
That kind of atmosphere is really unique in our profession. Typically accountants are move reserved, quite, skeptical, and as I said before- Bored! This conference was just the opposite: Lively, full of good attitudes and friendly. Probably the most lasting aspect after I left the hotel was the warm feelings I had about having spent a week around so much positive energy. Instead of being tired, I was fired up!
Discovering New Software and Products
Lastly I would say the exposure to software sponsors and other companies that you have never heard of is really fun and exciting. I saw several people linger in the exhibit hall long after the 2 hour session was over either talking to a rep from a new software product they had just discovered or comparing notes with other attendees about a company that they missed and want to talk to at the next break. You can search online for days and not get the list of products and services you had at SNH. Plus, most of them were manned by the management teams and could answer questions and take advice on new enhancements and options they should implement. This was especially true of Intuit, where they had several management teams there and were taking suggestions as well as providing help. One new find for me was a company called Finagraph, that does online desktops for clients so they can see their accounting information in real time when their accountant uses QB Desktop.
I would encourage anyone who has been to SNH to share their experiences here as more examples of why to go. And I must say- I AM NOT ASSOCIATED WITH SNH IN ANY WAY OR JOE WOODARD, this is an honest and very heartfelt examination of what I saw with the hopes that more people can come and share in the experience. For my company LedgerSync, we were very popular at the show and literally hundreds of new customers are signing up with our software. LedgerSync gets at a huge problem accountants have in getting bank information into their bookkeeping systems and solves it in a very easy way. No more data entry, no more asking for client bank statements.
I really enjoyed SNH 2014 and will see everyone there next year when it travels to New Orleans, a city that that is as fun and vibrant as Scaling New Heights….
Read the full article here: http://www.finagraph.com/news/2014/6/scaling-new-heights-the-accounting-conference-that-makes-you-money.