Best. Week. Ever. An interview with Intuit CEO Brad Smith
I’m cohost and cofounder of an increasingly popular online radio show/podcast called Radio Free QuickBooks (RFQ). On October 25, I had the opportunity to sit down with my partners, Woody Adams and Dawn Brolin, to interview Intuit CEO Brad Smith. I’m going to tell you all about it in a minute, but first I’m going to head off on a tangent. Just bear with me – this was just about the coolest week I’ve ever had professionally.
We were out in California for the Sleeter Conference – for those of you who don’t know (and I’m assuming since you’re reading this, you do), it’s one of the two big events we have: Scaling New Heights and Sleeter. They’re what – like the Bonnaroo and Coachella for QuickBooks nerds, right? Yeah. We’ll just go with that.
So. California. Sleeter. The three of us from RFQ had a chance that Monday to interview Jill Ward, senior VP and GM of Intuit’s Accounting Professionals Division, and Dan Wernikoff, senior VP and GM of Intuit’s Financial Management Solutions Division. Jill is always a great guest, but it was our first time interviewing Dan. The entire thing was an absolute blast.
We talked to them the day before they both stood on stage at Sleeter and gave one of the best keynote speeches I’ve ever heard. (And I’m not just saying that because I heart QuickBooks so much!) They clearly have an easy rapport with each other, and Jill referred to him as being like a brother – which, from what I see with my son and daughter, can be a “mostly love/sometimes you really annoy me” type of relationship. What was especially cool about this keynote was that RFQ got to see some of the magic behind the curtain before it happened. The PR team that put the keynote together ROCKED it out, with live polling via texts! It was so much fun to watch the bars on the graphs bounce back-and-forth as people answered questions.
Dan had such incredibly contagious enthusiasm for the new Intuit Loan Finder. It’s a service that helps make the loan application process less painful for the client and more efficient for the accountant, who, as Dan mentions, is always in the mix of the lending process. “We have so much information about the small business and can get all types of info about lenders, so we can then match you to the right lender.” This helps the small business get to a lender with an underwriting department that’s familiar with the business’ industry, and having the ability to export QuickBooks data can help complete up to 75 percent of the loan application.
The obvious passion that Jill has for helping accounting professionals is evidenced by a comment she made to us about the increase in online application adoption: “There’s a responsibility that Dan and I have to make sure we listen to what’s going to make it viable and easier for the accounting pro and the client, so we’re spending time doing that.” She went on to explain that while ProAdvisors had a higher rate of being “connected” and adopting online solutions than their non-ProAdvisor peers, as a group, they were still slightly behind their clients.
They had some pretty big announcements too – QuickBooks Online Accountant’s commercial release and inclusion in the ProAdvisor Program offerings, the addition of five free tax returns with Intuit Tax Online, and the addition of multiple sales tax rates in QuickBooks Online. The one I was most excited about was the QuickBooks Online Certification, which is designed for clients and accountants to help make the transition to working online easier. ProAdvisors certified in QuickBooks Online will also receive a ProAdvisor badge denoting this special designation, and a listing on the Find-a-ProAdvisor website to reach potential QuickBooks Online clients.
So that was the FIRST part of the week – and we also got to interview Intuit’s Luis Sanchez, who heads the ProAdvisor Program; Doug Sleeter; Intuit’s Kevin Kirn, group product manager for QuickBooks Online; and Ronny Tey from the Intuit AppCenter. You can listen to the Jill Ward/Dan Wernikoff interview here (along with Luis Sanchez and Doug Sleeter).
Then. THEN! Wednesday night we flew from Anaheim to San Jose for The Interview. Thursday morning we had a chance to sit down with Intuit President and CEO Brad Smith. He took a half hour to talk to us about growing up in West Virginia, and the vision, strategy, and five-year outlook for Intuit. And he did this right before jumping up on stage to give his “State of the Company” address to over 2000+ employees at the Mt. View campus. That dude is as cool as a cucumber.
I got to sit next to him, and for a QuickBooks nerd like me, this was as good as getting to meet Neil Peart. Or Peter Jackson. (I’ll just let those two names sink in. Got it now? I’m a geek.) I was totally starstruck, and all I could hear in my head was Warren Zevon singing “Werewolves of London” – and his hair was perfect . . .
The interview itself was really interesting. He mentioned growing up in West Virginia, going to Marshall, and his history at Intuit. Then we got to ask him about Intuit’s vision and strategy for the future of accounting and how it relates to online services.
He mentioned something I hadn’t thought about in a while – how five years ago, the “virtual office” meant going paperless, and how that idea is quickly being reinvented by accounting professionals and their clients. Dawn and I are good examples of this; we both work remotely with the majority of our clients. Heck, I don’t think any of mine even knew I was out of town for an entire week!
One of my favorite things that he said: "One of the things we've discovered, looking across the globe over the last five to seven years, is that there's one universal truth: The Accountant.” What does he mean? He’s talking about how Intuit considers accounting professionals their most important customer because we have such influence on our clients. They look to us to help them choose software, set up processes, and make decisions that will help them be more efficient, productive, and profitable.
The other favorite thing, and I keep going over this one in my head because it’s such a wonderful concept and one that Jill and Dan had mentioned earlier: that moving online “is about liberating the data and allowing customers to use whatever platform they want.” Intuit’s strategy for the next five to ten years is to reinvent the way customers look at products and services, and to provide an “amazing product experience” with “mobile first and mobile only” products.
Smith also spoke about the integration between the just-released QuickBooks Online Accountant offering and Intuit Tax Online, a powerful web-based tax product for accounting professionals. This integration allows the accountant to be more productive by having one login for both, allowing the data to “flow freely so that it’s seamless and frictionless.”
By using a lean start-up business approach and a user contribution model to help improve QuickBooks Online global editions, Smith explains that another part of the strategy for the next five to ten years is to keep allowing employees – and customers – to be innovators. Users can submit fixes to a product, suggest improvements to existing products, or entirely new ones. With these small, lean start-up teams, he explains that Intuit is able to develop a quick prototype, get user feedback, and fund the ones that work.
One of the last things he told us was that Intuit was planning on “going to town” on the data – to figure out a way to use the data they have to do all the work for the customer so there’s need to manual key anything in. Or use the data to have the ability to give deeper insights – to try to help customers save money and be more productive.
I think you’ll find the interview quite interesting. I know I did, once I got out of my starstruck daze and had a chance to listen to the interview. I’ve built by business around QuickBooks and the related products and services, and I can honestly say it’s the best career decision I’ve ever made. I’ve so enjoyed watching the changes Intuit has made over the last nine years I’ve been a ProAdvisor, and I’m really looking forward to what’s coming!
To listen to the interview (as well as our interview with Kevin Kirn and Ronny Tey, you can go here.
To watch the video of the interview, please visit here.