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Episode 48: How technology maximizes business productivity

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All Xero Gravity episodes

Hosted by Elizabeth Ü

This self-proclaimed tech-head founded his business, Bookkeeper360, when he was just 19. And while, at 23, he’s achieved so much in such a short time, there’s seemingly no end to his passion for helping small businesses thrive.

For multi-generation family businesses to startups, Nick Pasquarosa’s mission is to make technology approachable, empowering small businesses in their shift from manual to automated financial data processes.

First he helps clients understand their needs, pain points and what’s available. Then it’s a software interface tour, demos and training to ensure the technology package equals maximum control over workflow for the owner, and higher productivity for the business. Because to Nick, it’s all about a short learning curve so clients can enjoy the fruits of technology for a long time to come. And it’s all happening on Xero Gravity #48, with Elizabeth Ü.

Small Business Resources:

Episode transcript

Host:  Elizabeth Ü [EÜ]
Guest: Nick Pasquarosa [NP]

EÜ: Ahoy everyone! I’m Elizabeth Ü, and welcome to Xero Gravity.

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Guest soundbite

“Being tech savvy is knowing that software is around and that a lot of the manual processes that a small business owner is doing manually, can be automated. And it’s being knowledgeable of what’s out there and what other small businesses are doing.”

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EÜ: Meet Nick Pasquarosa. Nick hasn’t really known life without the internet, and as a result he’s the ultimate tech-head. It was his combined passion for finance and technology that led Nick to launch his business, Bookkeeper360, back in 2012. On top of running his business full time, Nick is also completing his CPA at St John’s University in New York City. And did I mention that he’s just 23!

Nick joins us on the show today to chat about how technology can really empower you to focus on what you’re passionate about.

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Guest soundbite

“What you’re really selling them is freedom, and you’re really showing them, ‘Hey, instead of doing this manually you can implement technology and now your time can be better spent doing XY and Z.’ That’s really the a-ha moment, when they’re adaptive and they’re like, “Hey, I need more technology now.”

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EÜ: So we have all of that and more coming up on Xero Gravity, right after this.

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EÜ: Nick Pasquarosa, thanks for joining us on Xero Gravity!

NP: Elizabeth, pleasure to be here today. Thank you so much for having me.

EÜ: So tell us a bit more about how you like to spend your time outside of the office?

NP: Sure, so when I’m not at Bookkeeper360, I really enjoy travelling. I’m definitely a foodie, I’m always eating — I can’t put food down. As of 2016 I’ve made a personal commitment to be more dedicated to my health and my fitness. I’ve been hanging at the gym a lot after the office and I’ve picked up a lot of books. I’m doing a lot of reading and I’m using the Kindle. I love it.

EÜ: That’s an inspiring list of extracurricular activities. So, I understand that you fell into finance and accounting when you got your first job at 16. So tell us more about that?

NP: Sure, so growing up I was always surrounded by small businesses. My mother was an entrepreneur. She worked in the textiles industry, so I always helped her manage her small business, and helping her from the financial and the accounting/technology aspect of her business. When I was 16 I applied for a job on Craigslist as a financial adviser, being their assistant, and it really was technology that landed me the job. My ability to work on computers and understanding of software, that’s what initially got me in the seat with the position and since then, I’ve kind of been in love with the finance and accounting industry.

EÜ: How was it working with your mom back before you got into that? Did she help you learn the finances or was that something that you just naturally had?

NP: So I took college accounting back in high school, and helping my mom was more of the creativity and the design person in the business. And what I helped my mom do is understand the business aspect, the corporation, the way to do the P&L, the balance sheets and so forth. So what I helped my mom do is understanding our pricing model, I helped her understand her margins. So I really put together you know, the full entree of what she needed to run her small business.

EÜ: So Nick, you are such a go-getter and you have such diverse interests. Not only that, you’re running a business full time while also studying for your master’s degree. So what’s your secret to being the ultimate multi-tasker?

NP: So it’s really staying organized and understanding what needs to be done and prioritizing those tasks. I rely heavily on Evernote. It’s been a big component in my success to managing my schedule and managing what tasks need to be completed, you know, and the different deadlines. I use a calendar, you know, I live by it. I block off time for certain items, whether it’s personal, it’s business, it’s school — whatever it may be. I keep myself very organized so I can stay on top of the most pressing items.

EÜ: And you have managed to achieve so much with that system, clearly, I mean you’ve accomplished an incredible amount professionally and you’re only 23. So how do you stay so motivated? There’s got to be something that’s really lighting that fire under you as well.

NP: Absolutely, it’s really passion.You really have to love what you do every day, and that’s what gets you up and gets you out of the bed. So, you know, growing up I was surrounded by technology and I truly love technology. And I love helping others, and you know, I couldn’t see a better fit — especially now with the timeline of all these different softwares coming out, where I can put the two together and really deliver a dynamic service to small businesses.

So it’s really a passion, it’s really your ambition, what you love to do and that’s what I’ve used to, you know, accelerate and you know, keep me going.

EÜ: I think like all things that are worth achieving, there’s typically some steep learning curves along the way. So what did that experience look like for you? And not only in your personal life, but during your entrepreneurial journey?

NP: It’s really understanding your unique ability and understanding what you like to do. You can’t be a master of all things — you really can’t wear every hat. So what I’ve learned is, you know, your time is inventory, it’s the most valuable commodity in the world. So you really have to understand when you’re running and growing a business, what your purpose is. And once that becomes very clear, all the other items you either have to delegate or you have to stop doing. And you really understand what, you know, what are those master of things that you can’t be a master of.

So, what I’ve been doing is putting key people, whether it’s a CFO, attorneys, HR professionals in the right seats for myself, and for my small business clients who have helped them, you know, succeed.

EÜ: These are some great tips. And now it’s time to dig a little deeper into this episode’s theme, which is of course: how technology can maximize your business productivity. So first up, can you define what it even means to be tech savvy in business these days?

NP: Sure: it’s understanding what exists. It’s understanding what you’ve done in the past. Being tech savvy is knowing that software is around and that a lot of the manual processes that a small business owner is doing can be automated. And it’s being knowledgeable of what’s out there and what other small businesses are doing.

EÜ: So tell me more: in what ways does technology help us run our businesses better?

NP: Technology is helping our businesses run better because they’re helping provide data and they’re helping automate processes. A lot of times they’re making sure that data is being moved over properly.

You can generate financials easier, faster, more efficient. And then there’s also this growing concern of “Am I doing it correctly? Am in compliance.” So what technology has done is it’s allowed business owners to run a more efficient business, and it’s really fueling the concept of evolution. If you look at small businesses, everyone’s competing with each other. So technology helps small businesses understand how they can bid a job so they can be more competitive. Technology is like the fuel, in my opinion, of the evolution, and adoption of technology is critical to stay in business.

EÜ: And how excited are your clients about adopting this technology? I mean: are most of your clients all about it? Or are some of them really concerned about some of the new-fangled things that they feel like they have to be involved with, but maybe don’t totally understand?

NP: So we get two different types of business owners. There’s two buckets I would say, and unfortunately it’s really most dependable on age because it’s how familiar you are with the technology. So you take a family-owned business that may have been passed on from generation to generation and you understand that they’ve done different accounting and different financial tasks in the past. You get to understand how they produce those tasks and how they go about completing them. And then you try to implement technology, and help them understand that there is definitely a training curve that comes with rolling out this technology.

They are sometimes scared of it. They don’t necessarily understand it. A lot of it’s demoing it, showing them hey, this is what you’ve done in the past, this is what you can do going forward. And when you show them that, what you’re really selling them is freedom. And you’re really showing them, “Hey, instead of doing this manually you can implement technology and now your time can be better spent doing XY and Z.” That’s really the a-ha moment, when they’re adaptive and they’re like, “Hey I need more technology now.”

That’s typical client A. Client B is more the millennials, which Xero has done a great job attracting. And a lot of those businesses love running their businesses on Xero — they want more and more technology. They want to automate, they want to have better, faster data and they understand that technology is a component. They understand the evolution of their business and their competitors, and to stay on top of their game they need to implement technology and embrace technology.

EÜ: So I loved what you said about how you’re not selling them technology, you’re selling them freedom. So when you have clients who are concerned about implementing technology, how do you help them feel more comfortable and empowered around that whole process?

NP:: We work with a ton of trusted applications such as Xero. They’re all encrypted, they’re all backed up, they have disaster recovery situations. What we do is we show them around the interface. We get them comfortable with it, we demo it for them, we train them on it. We don’t try to make it overwhelming where there’s so many tasks that they need to complete in the software. We want to make sure they feel comfortable when they’re working on the software.

EÜ: Can you give an example of somebody that went through that process? Or maybe they were concerned at first, but then once they got through the demo and once they started to understand what this was actually going to enable them to do with their business, or even free up time in their life? How that worked for them?

NP: Sure. So we worked with a company — one of our first clients when we first started — they were doing about $500,000 a year of annual revenue. That same business does about $30 million a year of revenue. And what we’ve done from day one is we’ve implemented a series of applications, what we call their ERP system. So we’ve implemented bill.com, Gusto and Salesforce, and nothing else changed. And at first they didn’t necessarily understand why do I need bill.com? Why do I need to be on a full-service payroll platform? Why do I need Salesforce?

So it was: what does the vision of your company look like? And now these softwares implementing, you now, on a day-to-day basis now may look like it’s a little bit of overkill. But when you understand what a small business owner’s vision is for a company, you get a good understanding of what you need to build on a foundational level to make sure they can achieve their goals. So, we’ve showed them bill.com. Bill.com has been a huge advocate in helping organize documents. Prior to that they were using in-house file cabinets. They had this whole lengthy approval process where they were stamping things. So what we were able to do is address the document management concern and the process and the lack of clarity and control in that, and when we showed them bill.com, their first interaction was hey this is so overkill, we don’t need all this.

But now that same company is saying we wouldn’t have been able to grow to the level we have grown to without bill.com.

EÜ: So you mentioned that it’s really important to start with the client’s vision. Or if you’re a small business you need to really start with that vision of what you’re trying to achieve, and then you can find the best technologies to match with that. So are you seeing any trends in terms of the small businesses, and what vision they’re trying to achieve? And maybe what types of software is helping them achieve that?

NP: Yeah, they all want to run a business. They don’t want to necessarily have a job. So I know, you know, when a small business owner goes into business they typically buy themself a job. And a job is requiring them to show up, to get paid and to work. They’re a key component of the business. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t give them the ability to focus on other things besides their job, such as their family and other passions they may have, like possibly starting a second business.

So when you look at what a job is and you look at what a business is, a business has infrastructure. In a business you’re implementing technology, you’re implementing different departments and different departments have structure and procedure. So what the software has been able to do such as Xero, bill.com, Gusto, Expensify and so forth, is they’ve helped build out infrastructure and then workflow can be followed by other people and successors. So that’s been able to help small business owners focus on what they do best. And they want a major sell, they want to grow their company. And the great thing about all these softwares is that they all grow with these companies so they’re very scalable platforms. So it helps them focus on what they do best.

EÜ: In terms of automation and delegating tasks, I love what you were saying about these people who start small business because they’re really passionate about being in charge of their lives. And I see so many small business owners that suddenly let their businesses, or as you would describe it, their jobs, kind of run away with them and they aren’t in control. So can you tell a story about how a small business owner has really been able to take control of whether it’s their schedule, their life, because they’ve implemented some of these technologies?

NP: When you’re implementing technologies you’re relying on the technology to do the human work that is open for interpretation. It’s open for more hands in the pot to get messed up with, it’s requiring more attention from the business owner, possibly. So when you invest in a technology that can really put together the different departments, or put together the different pieces, it allows for the financial freedom and the freedom for them to not have to manually do that process.

So going back to the success story that we had with one of our larger clients where we implemented bill.com, that essentially gave them the freedom to run their business no matter where they were, because they were able to have the documents automatically scanned in for them. They were able to have the approval process and the funding process. So now instead of that business owner having to come to the office every Thursday to sign checks, to get paid, within a few clicks of a button they’re initiating ACHs and payments to be sent to their vendors. So that’s one example where the software has been a huge advocate of this freedom concept that small business owners and entrepreneurs, you know, strive for.

EÜ: So in the work that you’ve done with various clients and helping them implement a variety of technologies clearly, are there some common misconceptions that you hear when people are looking at choosing or implementing a new technology?

NP: Sure, so a lot of times they think the software will completely automate everything like with the flip of a switch it’s cookie cutter and everything’s going to magically happen. There’s a training curve and not all softwares are designed for all businesses, and it’s dependant on your industry, what the specific needs are. So there is a misconception that technology will completely eliminate everything and over time, as technology does improve itself, it’s gearing more towards that. But there are still a lot of manual processes. Technology is just really helping organize and making the data deliverable in a faster fashion.

But there still needs to be a trusted adviser to interpret the data and provide coaching for that small business owner, and that’s really where Bookkeeper 360 comes into place. You know, the misconception is that the software’s going to do everything, I’m going to be able to just produce reports. But it’s really setting it up, it’s monitoring it, and then it’s using that data effectively to grow a business.

EÜ: So it also sounds like change management is a really important part of implementing technology. So are there any specific tips that you can give small businesses who are thinking about tackling a new technology project, so that they do have the correct expectations?

NP: It’s really understanding what the needs are, pain points, evaluating what’s available on the marketplace, understanding that software A may offer XY&Z, while software B may offer ABC&D. So it’s really understanding, interviewing and then understanding an appropriate timeline.

You can’t just flip a switch and say, hey, as of tomorrow we’re going to be using all these technologies, and we think they’re going to work in harmony. You really have to make sure before you jump and make a commitment to moving to something, you properly spend the time evaluating it. You know, demo it out, discover any kinks and then it’s really writing down the workflow of how all these technologies are going to work together. And then how’s this going to help us run our business and is this a really good fit.

EÜ: So given all of these best practices that you’ve described, can you tell us a case study or two of some of your clients who are really doing the best that they can at implementing these technologies?

NP: Sure. So we have a business — they own a retail store, ecommerce outlet as well, and they’re an Amazon FBA seller. So what we’ve done — and Xero has done other case studies with them before — is we’ve been able to interview the business and understand what their needs were from the different facets of different selling points. They have an ecommerce store, they have a retail outlet, they’re holding inventory. So what we were able to do is understand that there’s all these different businesses and different departments in this overall business. We were able to implement DEAR inventory, software like Hubdoc, bill.com, Gusto and Expensify to build a web of applications that all communicate with each other, with Xero being the epicenter.

EÜ: I love that. I love how you’re spending that time to really talk through the pain points with the client. And I feel like this is really important for small businesses as well, you really need to identify what those pain points are and then start looking at a good match.

We’re going to finish up with our question countdown: five quick questions and five quick answers. Are you ready?

NP: Yes, I am.

EÜ: Okay. In one sentence, what business book or idea made the biggest impact on you, and why?

NP: Behind the Cloud, by Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. Describes corporate cultures and giving back to the community, and a corporate strategy and how all that fits in.

EÜ: Ooh, that sounds like a good one. And what’s the one thing you can’t live without?

NP: Food – I absolutely love food.

EÜ: [Laughs] The most useful app on your phone right now?

NP: Uber.

EÜ: In one sentence what’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned throughout your small business journey?

NP: Passion. You really have to love what you do, and you have to help small business owners understand what their passion is, and help them focus only on their passion.

EÜ: I love that. I feel the exact same way. And finally, what skill do you want to enhance in 2016?

NP: Time management. I want to improve my time management and delegation skills.

EÜ: Well, it sounds like you’re already doing an excellent job. There are so many lessons that I am going to take away from this conversation. So that was awesome Nick. Thanks so much for joining us on the show.

NP: Of course, happy to be here. Thank you so much Elizabeth, and have a great day.

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EÜ: That was Nick Pasquarosa. He’s founder and CEO at Bookkeeper 360. Thanks for listening to Xero Gravity. Make sure you join us next Wednesday, because we have Bill Tancer, author of New York Times bestseller, Everyone’s a Critic, Winning Customers in a Review-Driven World.

You won’t want to miss out on that one! See you next time.

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