At the annual ENGAGE conference in Las Vegas, Blake, Megan, and Ryan discuss the value of the CPA license in a rapidly shifting professional landscape, H&R Block's acquisition of Wave Financial (the free invoicing and accounting software), QuickBooks Live & the rise of remote work in accounting, and EY's clever release of millions of dollars worth of blockchain code into the public domain.
This episode is sponsored by FloQast. Closing the books is a manual, error-prone, and time-consuming process. There has to be a better way than Outlook emails, Excel checklists, and endless status update meetings. FloQast was built by accountants for accountants to help them close faster and more accurately. The bottom line: Teams relying on FloQast on average close three days faster. Learn more.
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Closing the books is a manual, error-prone, and time-consuming process. In fact, 82 percent of accountants find the month-end close to be a negative experience. 78 percent report having to reopen the books, and three out of four say they're not confident in their close. Meanwhile, management wants numbers faster than ever and investor scrutiny on financial reports has only increased. There has to be a better way than email, Excel checklists, and endless status-update meetings.
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Blake Oliver: Welcome to The Cloud Accounting Podcast. I'm Blake Oliver.
Ryan Lazanis: I'm Ryan Lazanis.
Megan Lewczyk: I'm Megan Lewczyk.
Blake Oliver: We are here at AICPA [00:01:00] Engage. Thank you so much, Ryan and Megan, for joining me today. It's awesome to be recording the podcast in person.
Ryan Lazanis: Yes, this is very cool, actually.
Megan Lewczyk: It's excellent. Thank you for having us. Yeah, we're very impressed by the setup you have here.
Blake Oliver: This was not planned at all. We were just randomly in a session together. What was the session we were at?
Megan Lewczyk: Randy Johnston's IT Tech Update, which is always a crowd-pleaser. We enjoy learning all the new tech nuggets of wisdom that I would have never found without him kind of spoon-feeding it to the [00:01:30] accounting profession. It's a very cool plug for Randy because he does a nice job with that every year.
Blake Oliver: He's been doing it for 30 years or something, right?
Megan Lewczyk: 30 years. Yeah, he stays on top of everything.
Ryan Lazanis: This is the first time I saw it and I, basically, learned every single tech trend in an hour.
Megan Lewczyk: Oh, yeah. It's rapid fire, A fire hose of information. You have to check back at the slides to kind of gather everything but, yeah, it's pretty neat some of that tech that's coming down the pipe.
Blake Oliver: We're here at the AICPA Engage Conference. This is my first year. I [00:02:00] don't know about you guys.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, the first year also.
Megan Lewczyk: First year also. Yeah, felt like it was where everybody likes to mingle in the profession.
Blake Oliver: I am very impressed with the quality.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, so far, it's looking good.
Blake Oliver: It's amazing, and just everyone is here. Of course, it is put on by the AICPA. I figured this is a great time to ask that question that ... I don't know about you, but I get this question a lot. Megan, you probably do too ... should I get the CPA these days?
Megan Lewczyk: Absolutely. We get that question probably more than most. I am [00:02:30] the Chief Operating Officer of Yaeger CPA Review so, obviously, we work with CPA candidates on a daily basis. At that point, they've typically decided to become CPAs. Even further down, if you're still in school and you're trying to decide what major to do and what your profession is going to be after you graduate.
Megan Lewczyk: It's hard because a lot of folks are looking at the marketplace and saying, "Hey, it's a lot of work to get that CPA license, and maybe do I really need it? I'm not going to go into public accounting, or [00:03:00] maybe I want to go into an advisory practice and consult on certain things." I don't know, the value proposition for young students, I think, is not as much there as it may have been in the past.
Blake Oliver: It used to be everybody got it.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, it used to be ... I compare it to the pilots. They go through pilot training; obviously they're going to get their wings. Obviously they're going to go through the rest to get licensed and get everything they need to be credentialed in the industry, but the [00:03:30] CPA has started to not be as desirable by candidates, which obviously is a problem for the profession, I think.
Blake Oliver: Do you think the 150-hour rule has something to do with that?
Megan Lewczyk: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I understand. Education is great. I'm a Master of Accountancy, and I did a five-year program to get that done right away. For the folks that go out after college, they went into a bunch of debt to be in college, and then they go on to do something else, make [00:04:00] some money back, pay back their loans ... Going back to school and getting those extra credit hours is tough.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, I think you really nailed it when you said the value proposition is maybe not there anymore. I think that responsibility really falls on the profession. AICPA, and myself - I'm a Canadian, so CPA Canada. They have to evolve and lay out the value proposition and make it interesting for new members to join and want to participate in this. [00:04:30]
I think one of the issues is that they haven't evolved, and they're still kind of doing things the way it's been done for the last few decades. The new generations - the millennials, and the gen Z - they're looking for something a little bit different; they're looking for their training to maybe be a bit more different; they're looking for their careers to be different. I think the value proposition is really not what it used to be anymore, so I think that might be part of the issue.
Blake Oliver: You don't really need the CPA to do a lot of what we do these days. I'm a tech-oriented [00:05:00] guy, and I think you can just see it in the fact that more firms are promoting people without it.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: That, to me, is an indicator that-.
Ryan Lazanis: That's a huge trend right now where you see these non-accountants joining these accounting firms and providing different types of advisory services, whether it's tech consulting or whatever it might be. That's a big trend when you look at some of these reports. They're really saying that there's a big push to hire non-accountants to firms, so [00:05:30] that could be playing a role in this, as well.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah. I think the other challenge is that you do need to have some of those tech skills to be really successful in a lot of these newer evolving technologies. I think the university level, academic side ... I've been to some of the conferences on the academic side, as well, and I think that there is a very clear cut boundary between accounting and education and technology. I think that accounting programs at the university [00:06:00] level have to get on board with the tech side or the whole profession starts to be a domino effect where they are siloing. Even in sessions yesterday, where we're talking about blockchain, we ask what does the education need to look like for an accountant going forward?
Tech has to be a part of that, because it may not be that you need to know how to code something for a smart contract in blockchain, and actually execute [00:06:30] these contracts yourself, but as an auditor you need to understand what a smart contract is and be able to ask your clients, "Hey, which parties are involved in this contract? What are the terms of the contract, and how is that information going to be saved?" and you can pull it back down to audit it. Those types of things need to be flowed back through into the university level so that people get exposure to them, and I don't think that's happening.
Blake Oliver: I love that you're talking about blockchain, but let's take [00:07:00] it back a step. I did my credits to sit for the CPA exam not that long ago now. I did it backwards. I had my own small firm, then I went to a big firm as a manager. I don't even think they realized that I wasn't licensed; it wasn't important to them, and I got my CPA while I was a manager. In my classes at UCLA, there was not a single technology element in any of the required classes. We did everything on paper. [00:07:30]
Megan Lewczyk: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
Ryan Lazanis: I can't believe you were doing it on paper. That was just recently, a couple years ago.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it was what, five to 10 years ago was when I took those classes over the course of five years, yeah.
Megan Lewczyk: My recommendation then, okay, so obviously now you're listening to this podcast and you get this information directly from the people that know what you're going to need to know going forward in the next 10, 20, 30, years in your career. Take these classes in college. They may not be in the accounting department. They may be in [00:08:00] the computer science department, but you have elective credits, and they're part of your 12 to 18 credit hours that are paid in the same block. Take some extra courses in that so that you can become a subject matter expert, because there just aren't that many of them.
Ryan Lazanis: I think that's a good suggestion because if it's not going to come from CPA, the profession, it's also your responsibility to kind of sense where things are trending and those technology skills. Again, you don't have to be a coder, [00:08:30] but you do have to be able to manage technology to a certain extent and have a general understanding of AI, machine learning, blockchain, all these emerging technologies because that's what's going to be doing a lot of that compliance-type work and stuff like that, so I think that's a very good suggestion.
Blake Oliver: Just one more thing before we move on, Ryan, would you mind telling us a little bit about your firm and, specifically, [00:09:00] how you market online because I think that actually has something to do with the CPA license. You don't really advertise that you're a CPA firm, right?
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, no. I started Xen Accounting in 2013. It's an online firm that basically focuses on automating processes and automating the accounting workflow for small businesses across Canada. The idea was when I started the firm, that kind of model was pretty new in Canada and a lot of accounting firms- [00:09:30]
Blake Oliver: You mean like having a good website.
Ryan Lazanis: Exactly. That was part of it was how do you kind of package your firm and make it a little bit more presentable online? Even the name Xen Accounting, like, most firms at that point would not really have a different kind of name. It would be your initials for instance. So how do you brand yourself? How do you market yourself? If you look at all the firms popping up now, they're all doing that. They have excellent brand, they have excellent websites, they look very [00:10:00] attractive, and I think that is actually trumping ...
Because before that kind of marketing was taking place, people would say, "I want a CPA firm. I want a CPA to do my taxes," but now people are shopping for their accountants online through Google, so they say, "Wow, this is a nice web site," and they fall into their marketing funnel. They're not even asking about a CPA firm anymore, so that's not really top of their list. They just kind of buy [00:10:30] into the nice marketing and the CPA title is not really what they're valuing anymore.
Megan Lewczyk: From the client perspective, yeah.
Ryan Lazanis: From the client perspective.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, and the thing I've noticed, because we've worked with hundreds and hundreds of CPA candidates, and we've found that especially when you're first starting your career, it may not be as important. You kind of are just getting your feet wet anyway, so a credential is hard to just prove your [00:11:00] value because you do need some experience to prove that value. We've noticed there are quite a few, especially candidates that we work with just based on our submarket, are older candidates that have been out of school for quite a bit of time, and it is a game changer for their career. I genuinely believe wholeheartedly, and I will tell anybody this, a CPA license will change your socioeconomic status.
It will give them the American dream. It will take someone from a [00:11:30] minimum-wage bookkeeping job to something that you can really hang your hat on forever, and you don't have to think of it in like, "Okay, this is a year of me kind of studying and kind of staying up late to get this stuff done." You're going to have this credential well into ... After most people would retire, you could still be practicing. That's the part that I think because we're just a society that values in the now and quick gratification, everything about that, I [00:12:00] wish that there was some way that we could build that value back into the license from the structural standpoint, and so it kind of gets into how do we structure it, right?
Blake Oliver: I just learned at this conference that the AICPA is going to be administering these .cpa top-level domain now.
Megan Lewczyk: Oh, hey!
Blake Oliver: If you want that website with .cpa at the end-
Megan Lewczyk: Oh, that's neat.
Ryan Lazanis: That's cool. It's a good move.
Blake Oliver: ...that could be blakeoliver.cpa, I have to be a licensed CPA member of the AICPA, so that's one step.
Ryan Lazanis: That's interesting. [00:12:30]
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, that's great.
Blake Oliver: I think we're kind of all on the same page here where we do see value in the CPA title.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: I think it's a good thing to have, but I think we also all want to see it evolve and-
Megan Lewczyk: We have our concerns.
Blake Oliver: ...we have our concerns, exactly.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, with the way that it's trajecting in the future ... I guess, the trajectory and the license in the future and that's what's concerning I [00:13:00] think, especially in my demographic.
Blake Oliver: I will say from my own experience having gotten licensed in the last few years that it has made ... Even though I had my own firm, I have credibility, I know what I'm doing, just having CPA at the end of my name has made a big difference in terms of credibility.
Megan Lewczyk: Absolutely.
Ryan Lazanis: Absolutely.
Blake Oliver: As much as I am critical of the designations or the license in some ways, I'm very much happy that I took the time and effort to do it.
Ryan Lazanis: I agree.
Megan Lewczyk: How [00:13:30] long did you allocate to that? How long did it take you as a working professional? Because we get that question all the time.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it was going to take a lot less time but then my business took off, and Ryan you know how that can be.
Megan Lewczyk: Yes. Oh, absolutely. We have that, I think, in most cases.
Blake Oliver: I did it a UCLA extension, which was great because they have a combination of online and in-person classes. It took about five years to do all the classes while I was working.
Megan Lewczyk: So in addition to getting the education side down [00:14:00] and then studying for the exam, okay.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, I would say five years is a good amount to allocate, but my original plan was to do it sooner and not be working as much was to do it in the classes and the exam in two or three years.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, and just for reference because I already know this, your background as an undergrad was not accounting.
Blake Oliver: I was a music major.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, so you're a unique one in our industry.
Ryan Lazanis: Was it cello? What was it?
Blake Oliver: Cello, yeah. My grandfather left me an inheritance that paid for my college education, so I had took that money and invested it very wisely in [00:14:30] a completely useless major. I learned my lesson there.
Megan Lewczyk: Hey, now you have a great skill set.
Ryan Lazanis: I did political science, so I had to completely switch over as well.
Blake Oliver: I'm sure that's very helpful in business development in negotiation, in partner discussions, the politics of partnership.
Ryan Lazanis: There could be some usefulness, yeah.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, that's interesting. We're all not accounting undergrads. I was a general business undergrad and did accounting us my master's degree. [00:15:00]
Blake Oliver: Interesting.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah. No, that's fascinating. I do think there's value in getting a solid skill. I think anytime you can get a skill based degree, you can market yourself to employers which is helpful.
Blake Oliver: I said I was going to move on to another topic, but I'm enjoying this so much.
Megan Lewczyk: Okay, yes.
Blake Oliver: I want to state a potentially controversial opinion, and have you tell me what you think.
Megan Lewczyk: Oh, I'm ready.
Blake Oliver: One obvious way to increase the value of the CPA license would be to expand the exclusivity of what CPAs can do from just [00:15:30] signing audit opinions to other things. Some states do this, although they don't enforce it necessarily. In Texas, you can't call yourself, I'm pretty sure, fact check me on this, you can't call yourself an accountant unless you're a CPA.
Megan Lewczyk: Correct, and that's been around for a long time. That's a very kind of an old fashioned way that the rules are written where you can't say you're an accountant. They got a lot of push back, and I believe it was from tax preparers like the early H&R Blocks. [00:16:00] I'm not sure exactly which companies, but these legislative ruling- kind of fight the legislature about it so that they could actually say that they were these types of things in certain states.
Blake Oliver: You can't be a doctor without having a medical license. You can't practice law without having a law degree and having passed the bar, so why can you be an accountant and not have some sort of license?
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: What do you guys think of that? What do you think that of that, Ryan? Is it the same in Canada, you can call [00:16:30] yourself an accountant even if you're not a CPA?
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, you can call yourself an accountant in Canada without a CPA. I think you have a good point. I haven't thought about that before. It's the hardball way to create value.
Megan Lewczyk: It is. It's the hard ball way. I think you're touching on something that is very important because right now, signing an audit report is not the most appealing thing that you can do. I think that there's enough push back on the accounting industry and just the hours and the work/life balance that that might [00:17:00] not have the allure that it might once have had when people were valuing stability for their careers. An accounting firm offered that stability and they wanted to make a great living and provide for their families.
Where now I don't, I mean, personally, that's not necessarily my primary focus. I much more am interested in helping people and trying to build something that I'm proud of, and so when people go into a profession and they don't really see that they're [00:17:30] adding value and helping people, then it's a little bit harder to, you know? Maybe we do need to add some other specific things that only CPAs can do, and then the question is what would those things be?
Blake Oliver: Food for thought. We'll have to get back together, and I'll find out what you think.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Let's move on to some news, right?
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Some news broke while we were here at Engage is H&R Block has acquired Wave Accounting.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah.
Megan Lewczyk: That's a big one, yeah.
Blake Oliver: How familiar are you two [00:18:00] with Wave?
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, so I've used Wave before, personally.
Ryan Lazanis: Canadian company, so based out of Toronto, so quite familiar and visited their offices many years back and have a few relationships with people on the team there.
Blake Oliver: For our listeners who aren't familiar, what is Wave?
Ryan Lazanis: Wave is a free Cloud Accounting software for small businesses, basically.
Megan Lewczyk: It's a great entry level one for folks that have a passion project that they don't really know anything about accounting, and they can get going. They [00:18:30] can get an app on their phone and get rolling with some sort of record keeping.
Ryan Lazanis: I think what's amazing is that it's free.
Megan Lewczyk: Absolutely.
Blake Oliver: No monthly fees.
Ryan Lazanis: There's no monthly fees, and they got acquired for half a billion dollars.
Blake Oliver: Wow.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Ryan Lazanis: I think out of $80 million in original investments they didn't do bad.
Blake Oliver: Yeah, it's pretty good.
Megan Lewczyk: No, they did pretty good, yeah. It's a pretty app. They did a nice job with the development of it. I think it's very user friendly.
Blake Oliver: Wait, was their business model the whole time just to get acquired? How did they make money?
Ryan Lazanis: Well they made money. They had ads actually [00:19:00] in the platform.
Blake Oliver: Got it.
Ryan Lazanis: They also had payment revenues, so you could do your invoicing from there and they'd collect their 2.9 percent or whatever it is.
Blake Oliver: Got it.
Ryan Lazanis: I think there might have been another one or two revenue streams. I think they dabbled with offering some bookkeeping services directly through the platform, kind of like a QuickBooks Live style thing, I think.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Ryan Lazanis: They have a lot of users. They have a lot of users.
Blake Oliver: Millions, because it's free, right? They have a lot of those freelancers, small businesses.
Ryan Lazanis: Which [00:19:30] is H&R Block's bread and butter.
Blake Oliver: Exactly.
Megan Lewczyk: Exactly. Yeah, so I can see that the pairing is beautiful. I think that that's a great inlet into that marriage between an accounting software and a tax preparation.
Blake Oliver: I was particularly interested to hear about this because when I was working with Xero as an ambassador, I think that was when the whole H&R Block partnership developed it with Xero.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: But then it never seemed to go anywhere.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Now H&R Block is taking that concept, obviously, they're still working on it, bringing it in-house.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Wave [00:20:00] has a bookkeeping offering, right? They will do bookkeeping for their customers?
Ryan Lazanis: I think they're pairing you up with different bookkeepers that are on their platform, so they're not actually offering bookkeeping services. They don't have a bookkeeping team, but they have a network of bookkeepers.
Blake Oliver: So this is like QuickBooks Live.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, that's what I was saying.
Megan Lewczyk: That's what it looks to me on the surface, yeah.
Blake Oliver: I think it's interesting that how H&R... I don't know exactly what H&R Block's plans are for this. Are they going to be offering bookkeeping [00:20:30] services? How are they going to leverage this? But, clearly, the space is getting a lot more competitive. I could imagine that pricing will be on the low end of things, so there's definitely some pressure on price that we're going to be seeing on the bookkeeping end.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah. Well, and just from the perspective of the clients of this Wave Accounting software, I mean, accounting's the last thing on their mind. They really just wish that a magic fairy would come and wave a magic wand and they didn't [00:21:00] have to deal with it, so if they could have an all-inclusive through the tax-preparation process. Because I think when I speak with people just out in the world not in the accounting space, taxes are still scary, and I don't know why they're so scary for people, but they are. I think that if they can simplify that process, and I think that it was a smart acquisition on that side of it.
Blake Oliver: I'm a CPA, and maybe I'm just not a very good CPA, but I get anxious about my taxes. [00:21:30] I never can figure out if I have, you know, I'm not a tax guy, so I never know if I've done enough withholding or anything, but I should. I should be able to figure this out, right?
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, yeah that's true. I just withhold extra, then I'm always in a good place.
Blake Oliver: But that's a free loan to the government.
Megan Lewczyk: I know. It's true. It's true. Yeah, that's true. To be accurate on it, it's tough.
Blake Oliver: We mentioned QuickBooks Live.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: What's interesting about QuickBooks Live is the original 10 bookkeepers [00:22:00] are in the Boise, Idaho T-Sheets office, but the 500 that they're planning on hiring... Did you know it was going to be that many?
Megan Lewczyk: I had no idea, not until I heard it from you, and I genuinely think that's amazing. That's such a huge opportunity for a large subset of the population that has a challenge finding brick and mortar work given their life circumstances.
Blake Oliver: The 500 are coming, I think, mostly from TurboTax, and TurboTax Live people all work remotely. Rich Preece, who runs QuickBooks Live has been on a couple of podcasts talking about how that's actually where they're hoping to recruit from the most is folks [00:22:30] who want to work at home part time. He mentioned moms who are staying home with the kids and want to have some extra income. If you're disabled, maybe, working at home, but for most people it won't be a full-time gig. Megan, I know that you travel [00:23:00] a lot because your husband's in the military.
Megan Lewczyk: Correct, yeah.
Blake Oliver: Currently, where are you located?
Megan Lewczyk: We're currently in Hawaii at Joint Base Hickam, Pearl Harbor. Yeah, it's definitely... Anything that has anything to do with remote work piques my interest because it's such a game changer for military spouses. There's such a large gap between education level and employment, and most military spouses... The statistics of [00:23:30] underemployment and unemployment are substantially more than the general population just based on the fact that we move all the time.
Even in skill-based careers such as the CPA, nursing, some of the others that are popular for military spouses, teaching, you have to get licenses in all of the jurisdictions that you move to fairly quickly after moving. Obviously, moves are one of the most stressful things that a person can go through, so throw that on top of a career change, remote work looks great [00:24:00] because you then don't have to find employment when you hit ground and get a new house and all these things, get your kids into school. All of that has to happen all at the same time. If you can have some stability with your career, it's huge, and just having it on your resumé consistently is also-
Blake Oliver: Yeah, you're not changing jobs every few years.
Megan Lewczyk: You're not changing jobs. Because I think military spouses have the tendency... When you look at a military spouse resumé, you can tell they're a military spouse without even interviewing them because of the number of job changes and the consistency [00:24:30] every three years.
Blake Oliver: And the locations, too. Oh, there's a base, there's a base.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, and it's tough. I think that it's been even internal struggle. Do you tell someone when you're in an interview that you're a military spouse? I had to make the conscious decision that, yes, I probably would tell my employer because I want them to know kind of the things that are in my life and the stressors and the times that I'd need off that other people might not need that are important. I think that military spouses do try [00:25:00] to hide that because they don't want to be excluded from employment that they would be great for because they're going to be leaving in a couple years.
Blake Oliver: We'll chalk this one up in the positive column for QuickBooks Live.
Megan Lewczyk: Yes.
Blake Oliver: I know we've been kind of down on it.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, I think there's a perfect marriage for military spouses because QuickBooks Live you could actually get QuickBooks training for free through QuickBooks, so you can go to one of their online trainings [00:25:30] and work through that process, learn some accounting along the way and get certified as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor very inexpensively. Maybe you don't have the laptop right now, but you might be able to get the resources you need in terms of technology but, yeah, you can get going on it. I think that that's a perfect solution for some of these folks that do want part-time employment, have kids, have deployments and TDYs that they're dealing with so that they can't be at an office and have [00:26:00] that flexibility of working from home. Yeah, I think there is there is something to be said for that. I hope that they target that market as an employment hub.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, I'm a fan of what they're doing. I think it's an interesting move. It's a risky move for them.
Blake Oliver: Do you perceive it as being competitive against, you know, because you were one of the original fixed fee online accounting people?
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah.
Blake Oliver: Do you see QuickBooks Live competing with you at all?
Ryan Lazanis: You know what? I [00:26:30] think we're a little bit more upstream, so I think it's going to come down to that. I think what they're really focusing on is when people need on-demand help to a certain extent. There's a whole market of bookkeepers and accountants that only want to, maybe, work part time or on demand or want a very flexible arrangement, you know what I mean? I think they're pairing people up with...
I [00:27:00] think it's a different market, so it'll be interesting to see where it plays out. Again, it just goes to show that the bookkeeping space is getting exceptionally competitive, so whether it's QuickBooks Live or H&R Block or any of these other tech startups that are coming in offering bookkeeping services at a pretty, pretty unbelievable price, if you're just offering bookkeeping services, it's gonna be a pretty tough market to compete in.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, definitely. Well, and I think since you've been a [00:27:30] firm owner for a bookkeeping firm before, the amount of stress just being an owner adds to the equation. I think that there is something to be said for just the ease of being able to log on and work your hours and get your paycheck.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, absolutely.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, so I can see that being a benefit of it, too.
Blake Oliver: Before we go, I want to hear a little bit about what each of you are up to. Ryan, I get to follow your goings-on because you are blogging a lot these days. Your blog is at futurefirm.co. [00:28:00] You've got a newsletter that you send out. I really liked your recent post on 3 Reasons Why EY's Free Software Release is Super Smart. I thought that was neat. I didn't see anyone in the traditional press pick that story up. How did you hear about that, and tell us a little bit about why you think that's a big deal?
Ryan Lazanis: Part of my new project, Future Firm, is about helping educate bookkeeping, [00:28:30] accounting, and CPA-firm owners to modernize and adopt technology and a newer kind of modern business model and play around with remote work opportunities and digital marketing and all that kind of stuff that makes up a modern firm in 2019. I have to kind of keep my ear to some of the trends and what's happening in the space and provide valuable content to my audience. I'm very into the whole cryptocurrency [00:29:00] and blockchain space. I follow it on a daily basis.
Blake Oliver: Do you have clients that are in that space, is that why?
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, well not just that. When I started Xen Accounting in 2013, because it was a fully online firm and leveraged a lot of Cloud software and generally met clients on Skype, the type of business owners that wanted to deal with myself and the firm were generally in the tech space, and that's how I kind of learned about blockchain and Bitcoin very [00:29:30] early on. The more I learned about it, the more interesting I thought it was, and I saw a lot of parallels to the world of accounting. We don't need to get into that here but-
Blake Oliver: Another episode.
Ryan Lazanis: Exactly.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, we have more to talk about.
Ryan Lazanis: I forget where I saw this. I follow CoinDesk, a popular cryptocurrency blog publication, and I saw EY, and I saw that they released millions [00:30:00] of dollars of code for free, open source, to the public with no restrictions, no licenses, no nothing. I'm like, "Okay, well that's interesting. Now why would they do that?"
It kind of got me thinking, and the more I thought about I was like, "Wow, that's a really smart move in this day and age," because first off, they're clearly looking to target the cryptocurrency or blockchain, looking to target some of these businesses as clients, and these type of businesses, people [00:30:30] that are in Bitcoin, are very big on open source code. Bitcoin was born out of open source code, so that whole community is into that kind of thing, so they immediately connect with their market.
Megan Lewczyk: That makes sense, yeah.
Ryan Lazanis: The other thing is it's great advertising because you get all these blogs writing about it. You get all these message boards talking about EY and how they're helping the community, so great press there. I think it also helps when you open [00:31:00] source code, you get everybody able to participate on it as well. They released the code onto the market, and then they have all these other people, developers from around the world participating in the code improving it.
That makes it more valuable because they're using this code to help their clients with certain advisory services, so there's a few reasons why I think it's a very smart move. It fits in with the whole content marketing idea of let's give away our knowledge, and it demonstrates [00:31:30] our expertise and brings people to the firm, so it's this whole hoarding of information. The concept is old.
Megan Lewczyk: Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I like that. Yeah, inbound marketing at its finest in a very practical application.
Blake Oliver: If you're interested in following more of what Ryan's up to, what's that URL, Ryan?
Ryan Lazanis: Every week I send off a weekly email that kind of outlines the top five pieces of information that firm owners should know about to stay current and keep their firm in the future, and I [00:32:00] curate each of those. I send off five links. I make it a very brief email because I know firm owners are very busy, and I just write one or two sentence curating the article. You can sign up at newsletter.futurefirm.co.
Blake Oliver: Megan, what are you up to these days? You mentioned earlier you're the Director of Operations at Yaeger CPA Review.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, Chief Operating Officer.
Blake Oliver: Chief Operating Officer, and everyone works remotely.
Megan Lewczyk: We all work remotely. It's [00:32:30] a 100 percent remote firm, or I guess review school in this case. Yeah, we have a small but mighty team to help develop the content so that people can pass this exam. The thing that I'm most excited about is that we recently put together an instructor hotline that is Uberized, in my opinion. You can actually, within two hours of wanting to have a booking with one of these instructors, professors of accounting... We have a scalable team, so as [00:33:00] we start to grow with the demand of requests from students, we can actually scale it so that we can pair CPA candidates with actual one-on-one assistance when they need it most.
Obviously, studying for the exam, the last thing you want to do is wait around to have your question answered. You kind of need to get it answered and move on, so we realized that the biggest problem when you're studying for the exam is that lack of support. Yaeger CPA Review, Phil Yaeger's been in this industry for 40-plus years, and [00:33:30] that's always been the thing that people care most about when he works with them. He gives them his cell phone number. You can reach him seven days a week into the evenings. He'll always pick up the phone if he's available to pick up the phone, and so we wanted to figure out how do we scale that going into the future for CPA candidates?
Instructor Hotline is the way that that we're going to help make that happen, so I'm pretty excited about it. We've had a few people take us up on it so far, and the exam scores just [00:34:00] got released. There was a round of them yesterday, and we had some good results with people that had previously been struggling getting through the exam, so I'm pretty excited. Typically, folks that do not pass... I consider failed exams just practice exams, so you've had a few practice exams under your belt, and those folks there's a tendency for them to drop out at a certain point. If we want to build this profession, we need to get those folks that would have otherwise dropped [00:34:30] out to stay in, so our role at Yaeger is to be that safety net, catch those people before they drop out. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that here.
Blake Oliver: Wonderful. Cool.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, so I'm excited about it.
Blake Oliver: If people want to follow you online, where is the best place for them to do that?
Megan Lewczyk: Personally, if you want to follow me on LinkedIn, Megan Lewczyk. I'm probably the only one on there because it's a challenging last name. Also, if you'd like to learn more about Yaeger CPA Review and our [00:35:00] products and services, we have a subscription pricing model, so you can cancel anytime, which is new.
Blake Oliver: That was neat. I think you guys are innovating in that regard.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, well, and I think it makes sense. It's kind of an old fashioned method to charge someone thousands of dollars for a product up front and you don't know how long it's going to take. It just makes a lot of sense to have a model that's more of a membership style subscription pricing so that you can cancel if you decide. For instance, when you were taking the exam [00:35:30] and you wanted to take time off, work on your business, I mean, you should be able to stop.
Blake Oliver: I have to say, though, that's part of the reason I finished is because I had those books sitting there that I paid for.
Megan Lewczyk: True, there is that.
Blake Oliver: Good incentive.
Megan Lewczyk: Yeah, we do recommend you set a deadline for yourself because you can procrastinate on that particular topic.
Blake Oliver: How about you, Ryan? Where can people follow you on social media?
Ryan Lazanis: LinkedIn or Twitter, just search me up. I'm probably also the only Ryan Lazanis there or @RyanLazanis on Twitter. [00:36:00]
Blake Oliver: As always, I am Blake Oliver. You can follow me @BlakeTOliver on Twitter. Thank you both so much for joining me here at Engage.
Ryan Lazanis: This was awesome.
Megan Lewczyk: This was great. We're glad we ran into you this morning.
Blake Oliver: Hope to see you again soon. Oh, and Ryan we'll see you at Xerocon.
Ryan Lazanis: Yeah, I'll be at Xerocon.
Blake Oliver: Megan, are you going to any other conferences this year?
Megan Lewczyk: Not this year, but if there's anyone that's headed out to Honolulu and anything in the Honolulu area, just look me up on LinkedIn and let me know.
Blake Oliver: Sounds good. Will do. [00:36:30] Now I've got an excuse.