Accounting Salon Interviews: Clint Bowers of Smart Business Concepts

In this interview recorded in May 2019 in New Orleans, Blake and David chat with Clint Bowers, CPA and founder of Smart Business Concepts (https://www.smartconcepts.co/) in Dallas, Texas. Before starting his own firm, Clint was a Vice President and Corporate Controller at Borden Dairy Company. Now he uses that experience to provide business owners more visibility, control and understanding of their books.

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Show Notes

  • 00:24 - About Clint's firm Smart Business Concepts
  • 01:50 - What's your tech stack?
  • 04:16 - On premises versus cloud for manufacturing
  • 05:45 - What were you doing before owning your own firm?
  • 06:20 - Do your employees work remotely?
  • 07:35 - Clint is hiring!
  • 08:23 - What was your big takeaway from last year's Accounting Salon?
  • 10:53 - What is something our listeners can only learn from Clint?
  • 11:19 - What does "advisory" mean to you?
  • 13:31 - Follow Clint on Twitter @clintbowers25

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Transcript

Blake Oliver: Welcome to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver-
 
David Leary: I'm David Leary.
 
Clint Bowers: I'm Clint Bowers.
 
Blake Oliver: Thanks for joining us, Clint. It's great to see you here. 
 
Clint Bowers: Absolutely. Glad to be here.
 
Blake Oliver: We are in New Orleans at The Accounting Salon 2019.
 
Clint Bowers: That's right.
 
David Leary: This is the second time I get to meet Clint face to face. That's exciting.
 
Blake Oliver: Likewise for me, I think. 
 
Clint Bowers: I think so, yeah. 
 
Blake Oliver: Clint, where'd you come in from? 
 
Clint Bowers: Dallas. Yes. 
 
Blake Oliver: What do you do in Dallas?
 
Clint Bowers: In [00:00:30] Dallas, I own my own firm, Small Business Concepts, as well as a CPA firm, where we work with small-business clients and try to help them get profitable, or stay profitable, or-.
 
Blake Oliver: Stay in business?
 
Clint Bowers: Stay in business. Yes. More profitable. Make money.
 
Blake Oliver: What sort of businesses?
 
Clint Bowers: I would say- I could probably give you a list of clients, or types of businesses that we don't serve [00:01:00] rather than what we do, but I would say anywhere under 50 million bucks ... Professional services; actually, manufacturing. We love doing manufacturing.
 
Blake Oliver: That actually must be challenging from a technology standpoint.
 
Clint Bowers: It is. Actually, manufacturing companies are probably some of the slowest to adapt to any type of cloud technology. They really use their legacy systems and getting [00:01:30] them over to a cloud platform is actually challenging, because there's a lot more inputs that go into just flipping a switch, versus, "Oh, now I'm gonna move my invoicing over, and my payables." There's actually a lot underlying that takes a lot more effort. That's usually the biggest barrier.
 
Blake Oliver: Are you moving those companies that signed up with you to cloud platforms, or are you keeping them on their ERP [cross talk] 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, we will [00:02:00] definitely move them over. It's not really a scalable solution to have a bunch of on-premise solutions, that each client's using something a little bit different. Yeah, we'll move them over. 
 
Blake Oliver: Can I ask about your tech stack? What are you using for manufacturing? 
 
Clint Bowers: That is going to depend a little bit on the industry. There's some that we can look at a DEAR or something like that-
 
Blake Oliver: DEAR Inventory? 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, DEAR Inventory. For [00:02:30] some of our clients, they actually have more specific ... This you probably wouldn't have heard of, but ... I'm not saying you wouldn't, but maybe it's a particular  bread, or a particular software that's geared around how you make bread, and the process around that. We would help identify what are some of the solutions out there for that.
 
Blake Oliver: Help me understand, because I've never worked with manufacturing clients, not [00:03:00] large-scale, right? Had a guy who was making honey in a loft in Brooklyn, but we weren't using a manufacturing system for that. Why would somebody have a specialized system for making bread? 
 
Clint Bowers: Good question. It's because of a lot of the- when you're talking about food, there's maybe certain requirements of tracking certain things, or there are special [00:03:30] processes around bread. A software company will go after a particular industry and specialize their software for that particular vertical.
 
Blake Oliver: I've got to track all the batches, or whatever? 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, batching is pretty common, but with how the dough maybe takes time to rise, or things like that. I'm not a bread maker, so [00:04:00] somebody could probably call me out on that ... Just some of the nuances around the industry, that's really- 
 
David Leary: You're a dough maker. 
 
Clint Bowers: Ah- ha, very good ... That's right. I have to-.
 
Blake Oliver: We'll help re-brand you. 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah [cross talk] 
 
Blake Oliver: The Dough Maker.
 
Clint Bowers: The Dough Maker. 
 
David Leary: I remember, I don't know, this was maybe half a dozen years ago, or so ... I remember getting into a discussion with some on-prem manufacturing-software apps. They were just, "We can't ever go cloud," because the latency, [00:04:30] and just that little bit of lag that cloud has that you don't have on-prem, for some manufacturers, because maybe they're producing an assembly line that's just going so fast; you just can't have that extra little bit of lag every time that browser refresh happens ... Is that true or is that ...? Is that still true today. Is that something, or was I just getting blown smoke? 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, I think that, you know, if you say that was 10 years ago, that probably was- that really probably was the case. I would say now, typically, you'd probably [00:05:00] have less downtime, if you're cloud-based, rather than having to rely on actual maybe on-premise servers and dealing with all of that. I don't think that's really as much of an issue, especially on companies that are less than a $100 million in sales, to where they're not pumping out a crazy amount of product per second, if that makes sense?
 
David Leary: That makes sense. 
 
Clint Bowers: I don't [00:05:30] think that's such an issue anymore.
 
David Leary: How big's your firm? 
 
Clint Bowers: There's seven of us in Dallas, and we've been around for almost five years.
 
Blake Oliver: What were you doing before that? 
 
Clint Bowers: My background is in manufacturing. Go figure, huh? I worked at about a $2 billion company in Dallas; it was national. It's a dairy ... It is a dairy company. Borden, actually. Very [00:06:00] large manufacturing, and distribution network. I was the vice president/corporate controller there, when I left. I spent my entire career there. Hence the manufacturing part [cross talk] closed the loop on that.
 
David Leary: All your 700 employees all in the same office? You allow people to work remotely? 
 
Clint Bowers: Actually, yeah, we are all in the same office. However, [00:06:30] we do have a couple that work from home a couple days a week, and we're actually - to get into all this - we're actually rolling out a work-from-home policy, in order to try to stagger folks in and out of the office. We're finding that - just pretty much like everyone else - you really can get some really good, just nice, quiet work done outside of the office. It's helping with productivity ... Not fighting the Dallas [00:07:00] traffic, because we are down, not in downtown, but right near downtown. Instead of spending an hour both ways, commuting and then …
 
Blake Oliver: You have an office.
 
Clint Bowers: Yes.
 
Blake Oliver: People come to work there, but they can work from home.
 
Clint Bowers: Yes, they can work from home two days a week, as of right now.
 
Blake Oliver: Do you recruit- if you needed to hire, would you recruit from the Dallas area, or do you go from anywhere? 
 
Clint Bowers: We're actually recruiting right now. We started in the Dallas market, but actually we're expanding to all of Texas right now in our search. [00:07:30]
 
Blake Oliver: You started with Dallas, and you expanded. Is that because you were having trouble [cross talk] 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, we're looking for particular tax expertise to really manage the entire tax department-
 
David Leary: You hear that, listeners?
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, did you hear? It's a really cool place to work!
 
Blake Oliver: Why not? If somebody happens to be listening, and is in tax, where should they go to learn more about your firm? 
 
Clint Bowers: Go to the website - SmartConcepts.co. That tells all [00:08:00] about our firm, and just contact- email me your resume. I'd love to ... It's quite a unique opportunity that we're looking for.
 
Blake Oliver: Work from home! 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, yeah, yeah. In fact, the person who is leaving - her husband's getting relocated to Germany - works from home two days a week.
 
David Leary: I think that gives it a lot ... Blake and I met you for the first time last year, at The Accounting Salon. I didn't know much about you from there, but I feel like we've stayed [00:08:30] in touch since. What was your big takeaway, or what was the thing you gained from either the last Accounting Salon, or knowing the Accounting Saloners over the last year?
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, actually, that's a really great question. I took a lot away, which was learning to really get out a good, and solid core message about your business, about what it does, and what it does differently, and what it does not do. We chose not to do a vertical, and [00:09:00] have a niche, but what we did realize, coming away from here ... I just started learning this, and I think I talked about it at the last Salon, is we do want to, and we are focusing on how we can make our clients more profitable.
 
Really digging in operationally. That doesn't necessarily mean a bunch of fancy dashboards, or things like that, but really understanding their business, and working with them really on a pretty detailed level to understand profitability, and where [00:09:30] they are, and/or are not making money, and where they're spending money; where they should be spending money, things like that. We're working on really branding that right now, which we hope to launch in the next couple of months.
 
Blake Oliver: I'd imagine that when you do deliver an insight that it gives them a percent or two back to their bottom line; you don't have a problem selling anything else after that.
 
Clint Bowers: That's an excellent point, yeah. Getting that first big win is really [00:10:00] good, and it really sets up a really nice trust between you and the client.
 
David Leary: I'd imagine there's more opportunities for wins if your clients are running a manufacturing business, because there's lots of different variables, and levers for you to pull. 
 
Clint Bowers: That's right. 
 
David Leary: You could find one; then a couple months later, find another lever. Pull another lever.
 
Clint Bowers: We're building out our process around that. Right now, it's been very tailored to what's going on in the business, but that's exactly what we're doing. We're [00:10:30] trying to put together a process map of how we could look at ... Doesn't really matter what type of business, but we go through the same process to discover those things. That's exactly right, we typically don't go in, and give you our "Able to deliver 10 great things," and then, we don't do anything for a year. It doesn't really work like that. Yeah, that's exactly right.
 
David Leary: Our listeners obviously learn something from Blake and myself, hopefully, every week, but what's something they could only [00:11:00] learn from you, Clint? They only can learn from you! 
 
Clint Bowers: They can only learn ... What did you call me earlier? 
 
David Leary: The Dough Maker? 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, a dough maker. How to make dough ... No, that's not right.
 
Blake Oliver: You were talking about it already - helping clients find profitability, and find ways ... I feel like not enough- everyone talks about advisory services. "You've gotta get into advisory services!" What does that mean- 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, actually we were popping that question within Salon- [00:11:30]
 
David Leary: Yeah, it's going to be a topic tomorrow at the Salon. 
 
Clint Bowers: It's like what exactly does advisory mean? Advisory, to me, I think it's a term that's thrown around a lot, and folks can maybe say they're in advisory, but the way we're defining advisory, just within our firm, is identifying ways to help businesses become more profitable. Even if it doesn't mean they're moving to the cloud, it can literally be an engagement of where [00:12:00] we're going to dig deep into the numbers ...
 
The biggest takeaway is follow the data. Don't go upon emotion or the way that it's always been. We just know that - always challenge the business owners, and make sure that you follow the data. Otherwise, you can end up making the wrong advice, or recommendation. Then helping them ... If the data is not clean, obviously, you've got to get clean data, but really follow [00:12:30] the data, instead of emotional-type decision-making.
 
Blake Oliver: On this topic, you said something earlier about how- was it like a dashboard is not enough, or you don't rely on dashboards to do that [cross talk]
 
Clint Bowers: You asked me a second ago what stack do you use, and things like that. We use, really, that kind of stuff internally. We won't do a lot of dashboards that we produce external to our clients. A lot [00:13:00] of folks may not like to hear this, but we just don't find it useful. It's either slow; it's either ... Comes up once a month. We don't use a lot of dashboards. Another reason is the business owner is not typically going to sit around and look at a dashboard all day; that doesn't happen. They're running a business. We use it internally to then go have a discussion, and talk to them about the data, and use it that [00:13:30] way. 
 
David Leary: What if somebody wanted to talk to you about their dashboard? How would they contact you? 
 
Clint Bowers: We don't [cross talk].
 
David Leary: -I'll let Blake handle this question. Maybe you'll get a different answer.
 
Blake Oliver: If one of our listeners wanted to follow you online, get in touch with you, send you a message, where's the best place for them to do that? 
 
Clint Bowers: Yeah, probably on Twitter, actually - @clintbowers25. Yep, absolutely. 
 
Blake Oliver: What was your website again? [00:14:00]
 
Clint Bowers: SmartConcepts.co.
 
Blake Oliver: Clint, thanks so much for your time. Been great talking to you- 
 
Clint Bowers: Absolutely. Likewise.
 
Blake Oliver: Looking forward to sharing more insights. 
 
Clint Bowers: Yep, perfect [cross talk] 
 
David Leary: -The Salon. 
 
Blake Oliver: Cheers. 
 
Clint Bowers: Cheers. 
 
David Leary: Cheers. 
 

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