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QuickBooks firms vie for 2018 Firm of the Future title

23rd Jul 2018
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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AIS Solutions
AIS Solutions

Last year Canadian firm AIS Solutions broke the United States' hold over the Intuit Firm of the Future competition. So as the software giant launches the competition for 2018, can an innovative UK firm topple their global counterparts?

The 2017 UK Firm of the Future finalist Business Works missed out of $25,000 prize money at the November final at the QuickBooks Connect event in California, after AIS Solutions took home the global title.

While the finalists from the US, Australia and the UK all displayed the cutting edge traits also inhabited in the Accounting Excellence Awards entrants, it was the Canadian firm’s training and education programme Kninja for bookkeepers and bookkeeping firms that separated them from their QuickBooks contenders. 

AIS founder Juliet Aurora (pictured above) started this second business in 2016 as a way to guide firms through their own digital journey. “We started Kninja as solving pain points within our own practice, to keep our team up-to-date with what was going on and realised that if we are struggling this much and we're a team of 12 with a lot more resources than other smaller practices,” said Aurora.

“Where people are struggling is knowing that they need to change, but they don’t know where to start,” said Aurora. That’s why AIS designed the Kninja programme around its own trial and error experiences. “We made every mistake that was possible.”

As the introduction of cloud and AI continues to disrupt the profession, AIS unsurprisingly saw more similarities and shared qualities than differences with its global cohorts. While every finalist was focussed on educating clients, Aurora said recruitment posed the biggest challenge for firms, as has been explored in great depth on AccountingWEB.

“The biggest challenge most of us are encountering is finding the people who have the experience, so you aren't having to start from scratch and train them,” she said.

The firm’s win has also emboldened the AIS team members with a sense of pride, as is often seen with their delight when informing family members and clients about the Firm of the Future victory. “Whereas before a lot of that change was driven by Steve Loates (Aurora’s husband and VP of business development) and I, now it is much more our team is participating, saying 'what's the next step after the global firm of the future'.”

But where the firm made the biggest impact was in ending the United States’ winning streak. Aurora partly attributed the firm’s win to a shift in the way the competition is judged. In the past, the popular and social vote carried a large weighted factor in deciding the winner, but this element has been reduced, which has made it more of a level playing field for countries from a smaller territory to compete, said Aurora. 

UK firms now have until the 12 August to explain why they deserve to be the global champions. Ready to hand over her “tiara”, the UK Firm of the Future finalist Jo Tomlinson said that there’s a chance for the right UK business to win on the global stage.

“It wasn't us for good reason, the Canadians were better than us this year but who's to say the British team wouldn't be the best one going into next year? Everyone is on a fairly level playing field. I know America is a much bigger territory, but how many can you actually reach within that territory?”

But UK firms shouldn’t start their “it’s coming home”-style campaign just yet. It’s no longer just Canada, Australia and the United States that the UK finalist will have to compete against, as this year India has joined the Firm of the Future mix.

When pressed about the UK’s chances, Intuit’s accountant product leader Ariege Misherghi remained impartial. “Firms in the UK and around the world are making enormous strides in implementing technologies and expanding their services and capabilities.

“Our judging panel diligently reviews every entry to determine the winner, and we’re consistently blown away by the ideas and inspirational spirits of these firms. It’s an exciting time for accounting professionals, and we’re eager to see this year’s entries from our partners across the globe.”

UK QuickBooks users can enter the Firm of the Future competition here.

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