“The cloud differentiates us from our competitors. The fact that we can provide real-time accounting is a huge differentiator.”
TKCPA, based in Walla Walla, Washington, serves clients in the food and beverage industries. This 20-person firm specializes in estate and trust work and handles 1,200 tax returns and 300 trust returns per year, driving about $4.5 million in gross revenue annually. Located near the heart of Washington state’s wine country, TKCPA functions as an outsourced CFO for more than 50 wineries, completely running their financial offices.
Kristal Hassler, CPA, the firm’s CEO, has been a practicing accountant for more than three decades. TKCPA has existed for more than 20 years.
Hassler was an early adopter of accounting in the cloud. At the dawn of the 2010s, she faced the same issues many firms face today with version control. Multiple employees worked in different versions of client files, some delivered to the firm via thumb drive.
“It became such a pain with people in multiple versions,” Hassler says. “People in the office would open and work in the wrong version of a file on a thumb drive.”
Even the advent of QuickBooks® Online (QBO) didn’t solve TKCPA’s problems. Washington has a complex system of compensation for agricultural workers that requires careful tracking of specific activities. QBO couldn’t always handle the complexity. The firm primarily used QuickBooks Desktop (QBD), but it needed employees to be able to work simultaneously and securely in QBD client files.
“Workers in wineries are paid based on hours worked by type of job,” Hassler explains. “There are different rates for picking, pruning and mowing grass. We have to keep track of everything. QBO doesn’t give us the ability to do it. We’re still big users of QBD.”
About a decade ago, TKCPA began hosting QBD in the cloud, using it along with Virtual Office CS from Thomson Reuters. The cloud enabled Hassler and her staff to transform the firm. All clients must now use hosted QBD or QBO; the firm no longer accepts thumb drives from clients. TKCPA requires clients to upgrade to the latest version of QuickBooks software every year. The firm currently has more than 60 clients operating in the Right Networks cloud.
“If you want to be our client, that’s how it works,” Hassler says. “Our clients understand it. We’re known as a firm with technology. People come to us and know they have to adopt our system.”
Hassler was an early Right Networks customer. She credits Right Networks support with helping her effectively keep her work with her clients in the cloud.
“The support has been amazing,” she says. “Right Networks has an awesome support team.”
Hassler is also a long-time Rootworks member, a relationship she says has been instrumental to her firm’s success. More recently, TKCPA has also taken advantage of security awareness training from Right Networks. Hassler understands the importance of keeping employees sharp in avoiding security threats from phishing and other attempted cyberattacks. With security awareness training, TKCPA can test employees on how to avoid threats related to Virtual Office CS.
“A security breach can put an accounting firm out of business,” Hassler says. “We are cognizant of what needs to be done. We need to have a regular way to make employees aware of security threats. We need to be checking that they’re up to date. We can do that with training from Right Networks.”
Right Networks has enabled Hassler and her staff to transform TKCPA. Clients understand the efficiency and security benefits of working in the cloud, and Hassler says she is able to use the cloud as a competitive advantage.
“Our clients have embraced it,” she says. “We can log into their environment, which means there’s less manual work for them to do. The cloud definitely differentiates us from competitors. The fact that we can provide real-time accounting is a huge differentiator.”
Cloud hosting has also enabled TKCPA to ease staffing issues by hiring and retaining employees who are based far beyond the region around Walla Walla. One longtime employee was able to move to Scottsdale, Arizona, years ago and stay with the firm full-time before remote work was common as it is today. TKCPA now has four full-time employees who reside outside the state of Washington.
Employees can also work in the cloud on flexible schedules, which helps with recruiting and is great for people with families.
“We’ve had remote employees for more than 10 years,” Hassler says. “Some of our working moms work from home. A hosted environment was a critical path for us to be able to do that.”
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