Daphne Peterson took an interest in accounting at an early age because her father was a CPA. This initial spark led her to over 20 years in accounting, finance, and operations. Most of her focus throughout this time has been working with Fortune 500 companies that need to turn around their underperforming operations. Within the past nine years, Daphne found consulting to be a natural progression for her career.
As a Supervisor at RSM US, Daphne focuses on SaaS-based accounting and operating solutions for her clients. Initially, she discovered NetSuite while working with a client during an acquisition phase. Afterward, Daphne found employment with Explore Consulting, who focused exclusively on implementing NetSuite. When Explore Consulting was acquired by RSM US, currently the largest NetSuite provider, Daphne continued consulting on software that she enjoys. One of her favorite things about NetSuite is the exceptional support they provide.
As you listen to Daphne’s suggestions for beginner and experienced NetSuite users, you will notice that she offers effective tips that are sometimes overlooked. You can use her suggestions to improve your NetSuite onboarding; or create new best practices within your organization.
In this podcast episode, you'll learn how to:
- Familiarize yourself with dashboard features that help you complete tasks.
- Establish KPIs, shortcuts, and reminders to save time.
- Build on NetSuite fundamentals by creating searches and providing links.
- Receive in-depth steps-by-step assistance with completing tasks through SuiteAnswers.
- Utilize color schemes in any of your environments.
- Consider company use cases before implementing any software to stay organized.
Watch the Podcast Interview
Listen to the Podcast Interview
Daphne Peterson’s advice on NetSuite is also featured in NetSuite Best Practices for Accounting and Mid-Marketing Consulting Firms || How Outsourced Accounting Providers, Virtual CFO’s, and System Integrators Can Support Fast-Growing Clients with NetSuite [Download the Free eBook]. Highlights include:
- Daphne enjoys the consulting and advisory side of accounting after over twenty years in accounting and management. “My dad was a CPA and later I worked for Fortune 500 firms in management roles. I was a user of PeopleSoft and SAP, but NetSuite was the easiest for me to understand. I also had great support.” She worked for Explore Consulting, later acquired by RSM US, the world’s leading provider of NetSuite in over 15 countries.
- Daphne Peterson of RSM US encourages clients to practice in the NetSuite sandbox before data goes live into production. The intent is to work out the glitches, reduce risk, and get users better acquainted with NetSuite without the fear of making a significant mistake.
- NetSuite allows you to have as many Sandboxes as you want to configure before going “live.” You can push production refreshes to a Sandbox, which allows you to test new solutions. Daphne notes that some clients keep the Sandbox after implementation, refreshing it throughout the year to try new solutions. “Testing workflows in a Sandbox allows you to experiment with those new capabilities,” Daphne says. “Don’t be afraid to try something new.”
- “The first thing I would really understand is your dashboard because that's where you can create shortcuts, key performance indicators (KPIs), and reminders to help you do your job,” says Daphne. The dashboard will help you drive your monthly closing processes as well as other steps throughout the month.
- It’s important for NetSuite users to be efficient even when moving files. “I like to use the drag and drop feature,” says Daphne Peterson. “You can pull files from your desktop and drag them into that transaction form and it will actually file that document in the file cabinet in NetSuite. Or you can attach a document to a transaction form.” It’s a great option, especially for beginners if they are struggling with organizing their files, and learning file structures and naming conventions.
- “I still use Suite Answers,” says Daphne. “It’s like an encyclopedia that’s in the help section within NetSuite.” Whether it’s a transaction form or a specific field, Suite Answer gives you instant information. “But you can also put an error message into Suite Answers and it will tell you what it is. It’s very cool.”
- “Recognizing that NetSuite is a single database, right out of the box, is key,” says Daphne Peterson. “Power users can perform searches and analyze lots of data once they understand searches and the reporting functionality.”
- Daphne Peterson recommends going with basic NetSuite functionality in the beginning. “But as your team really gets moving faster, the power users can look at their company processes and create workflows to streamline processes that are repetitious,” she recommends. NetSuite’s point and click workflow wizards help the power user perform additional functions that they might not have originally used at the outset with a developer. “Those clients who start out with the basics usually see their team running faster in about two months,” giving teams ample time to assess and improve workflows.
- Is it more complicated to work with specific business verticals? “It depends on the process,” says Daphne Peterson, knowing from experience that industries will have different processes. “You’ll want to streamline and align the workflow, but the actual process of creating the workflow would not vary. It would still be the same functionality in NetSuite; it would just have changes based on the industry.” Understanding the industry will be important to accounting professionals, but NetSuite workflows are standardized, yet flexible enough, to support a variety of industry sectors.
- After years of managerial experience, Daphne Peterson understands that having a supportive stakeholder helps drive a successful implementation and creates buy-in across the organization. “But those organizations which have really thought about their use cases before implementing tend to be the most successful,” she noted. “I’m finding that these clients are much more organized and feel more confident that they will get the solutions they want from the solid test cases they’ve built.” She also recommends understanding the resources necessary for a great implementation. “People will only be able to do about 75% of their full-time job with 25% dedicated to implementation,” Daphne comments, recommending that clients plan accordingly.
- “We are definitely seeing more advisory services,” says Daphne Peterson. Once a company implements NetSuite, they look to their NetSuite partner for support and guidance as it performs more of its own configurations. “Clients want more efficiency and advisory services. Sometimes they are doing their own configuration work, but we advise them about services and technology as their longtime partner,” she commented, noting that more companies are working remotely and thus need even more support.
- “Training is another area where clients need assistance,” Daphne Peterson noted. “RSM US creates a monthly newsletter in addition to educational webcasts so our clients can learn more about NetSuite.” In addition, the NetSuite Accountant Program helps outsourced accountants get the training and tools necessary to support clients who use NetSuite. Whether you are added as a seat on your client’s account or running it from your office, accountants can expand their knowledge and advisory services using the program. As clients migrate rapidly to cloud-based accounting systems, NetSuite offers a breadth of expertise to add to your practice.
- As industry changes occur, clients can also find more training. “For instance, there are many changing roles with revenue and leasing that RSM US can provide resources on.” Clients also have specific needs that require specific training. “For instance, they may want to add a dunning or fixed assets module. I do a lot of training with clients and even a two-hour virtual session can give them the hands-on support they need,” Daphne commented. Clients gain efficiencies by configuring additional modules and getting the training to use them.
- Daphne is a results-driven consultant with 20 years of Fortune 500 industry and consulting experience developing solutions that enable teams to deliver products, programs, and services. Daphne joined RSM US in 2018 as a team member of the Pacific Northwest Technology Management Consulting practice, assisting more than 20 companies with NetSuite systems implementations. She provides leadership and technical expertise in the areas of professional services, order to cash, system integration, accounting, and project management. Daphne assists clients with managing and leading strategic projects and delivering results that create value for the organization. You can learn more about RSM US by visiting its website and connect with Daphne on LinkedIn.
A lightly-edited transcript follows below:
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Joshua Feinberg: Hi, I'm Joshua Feinberg from the AI in Accounting Podcast, and I'm being joined today by Daphne Peterson, a Supervisor at RSM US. Welcome, Daphne.
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Daphne Peterson: Thank you, Joshua, for the opportunity today. I appreciate it.
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Joshua Feinberg: Thank you so much for agreeing to come on the podcast today and talk to our viewers and talk to our listeners about your favorite tips around NetSuite. But before we do that, when I start these interviews, I usually like to learn a little more about you. I'd like to learn a bit more about where you went to school, how your career progression has been, how you ended up in your current role at RSM US, how your routine fits in with the bigger picture at RSM US. Can you give our viewers and give our listeners a little bit of background on yourself?
00:02:07.920 --> 00:02:12.660
Daphne Peterson: Sure, I've had about 20+ years in accounting, finance, and operations. A lot of my background has been working for Fortune 500 companies, and I decided to go into consulting just because I wanted to do more advisory work and consulting. My last nine years have been SAS-based, using Oracle, NetSuite, and some QuickBooks. Still, it's been focused on accounting and operations, which I find has been helpful, understanding my clients operations.
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Joshua Feinberg: Yeah. One of the interesting things that I found out when I've interviewed a lot of other experts for software is kind of the moment that they knew when they wanted to go into accounting software. Was there ever like a big “lightbulb” moment when you were growing up? Was there something that happened as a kid or in college or something when you said, “This is my calling?” Or it just kind of happened by accident?
The Journey from NetSuite End User to Full-Time NetSuite Implementer to Largest NetSuite Provider
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Daphne Peterson: You know, my father was a CPA. So, I just kind of grew up with accounting from a very early age, and then it just kind of morphed into management. I have a management background. So, I manage large teams. So, it’s kind of morphed into consulting. So, I think taking that experience from all those years and then just being able to advise these clients now is rewarding, and so it's just more like I can't tell you the exact moment. It happened, but it just evolved over many years.
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Joshua Feinberg: How did you originally come to NetSuite? Was it an employer, where you got there, and they were already using it? Were they looking for a volunteer to get trained on it initially?
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Daphne Peterson: So, what happened was I was at a client, and they were looking at an acquisition, and we had a great support team for NetSuite from this company called Explore Consulting, and, as we sold the company, and I found myself looking for employment, I reached out to Explore Consulting, and they hired me, and I was excited because that's all they did was NetSuite implementations, and then about eight months later, we were acquired by RSM US, which is now the largest NetSuite provider, and they have 15 international contacts. We have RSM offices; they handle 15 international companies. So, it was really exciting going to Explore because they were the NetSuite provider, but at the same time, when we were acquired, it was even more exciting because they then became the largest NetSuite provider. So, I just stayed in NetSuite for the last three years, but I was a NetSuite user, and I had great support. So, then I wanted to be a NetSuite consultant because of that.
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Joshua Feinberg: Yeah, that was interesting. I was telling you about that before we started the podcast, that I've seen that come up a number of times, where somebody kind of fell into it by accident in a previous job, where maybe they were spending 20, 30, 40% of their week on a particular mid-market ERP platform, but they loved it so much, they decided instead of just using it in one particular role, they wanted to help lots of different companies with lots of different implementations.
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Daphne Peterson: Right, and I've used PeopleSoft, SAP, and NetSuite has been the best for me as a user. It's been more easily understood for me, and I just kind of latched onto it and enjoyed it.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, if you were sitting down and having coffee—or a “virtual coffee” in these times—with somebody brand-new to NetSuite, either they joined your team at RSM US, or maybe it's a new client that you're working with that has a little bit of concern because perhaps they've worked with another accounting package, another ERP package, and they said, “Daphne, what would you tell me to get started?” What would you tell a beginner that you think is especially important for them to know when they're first getting started with NetSuite?
Advice for NetSuite Beginners
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Daphne Peterson: So, the first thing I would do is I would understand your homepage, your dashboard because that's where you can create shortcuts, KPIs, reminders to help you do your job. That's the first place I would go as a first-time, you know, beginning user. So, that dashboard helped me drive my processes throughout the month. If you're an accountant and you’re closing the month-end, you can have all these reminders to remind you of the steps, understanding that NetSuite has a month-end process. But there are certain things outside the month-end process that you would want to be reminded to use. One of those tips would be to use your dashboards, KPIs, shortcuts, and reminders.
00:07:03.000 --> 00:07:03.720
Joshua Feinberg: I was just going to say, is that something you normally cover during onboarding?
00:07:09.300 --> 00:07:18.960
Daphne Peterson: Yes, and you can build on that once you understand the basics. You can build on that and create searches, and you can provide links to pages that you frequently use. So, those are your shortcuts. That would be helpful for a beginning user—even though the dashboard at first looks a little scary—and just getting those three key basic things would help drive efficiencies for that user.
00:07:34.500 --> 00:07:38.820
Joshua Feinberg: Cool. Anything else that you think would be especially relevant for someone that's just getting started?
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Daphne Peterson: So, Suite Answers. I still use Suite Answers. You can go to help and then Suite Answers, and it provides you in-depth steps to complete certain tasks. You can put an error message in there, and it tells you what the error message is. Suite Answers is like the encyclopedia to NetSuite. That's very super helpful; also, your help fields on your transaction forms. If you're navigating to a particular field, and you're not quite sure what it is, clicking that field help gives you quick help navigation, or you can hit help, and it takes you to a more in-depth page to understand what that field means. I have one more tip.
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Joshua Feinberg: Hey, go ahead. Yep.
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Daphne Peterson: Pardon?
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Joshua Feinberg: Okay, dashboards, KPIs, reminders, also, are kind of all very closely related and knowing where to look for help, and then the third tip for beginners…?
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Daphne Peterson: Yes, and then color-code your environment. So, if you have a sandbox environment that you practice things in, and then you have your production environment, I like to color-code my sandbox orange. So, I know right when I'm in that test environment, and then my production’s always another color. So, I kind of tease my memory when I'm in certain production environments. I also like to use the drag-and-drop feature. You can pull files from your desktop and drag them into that transaction form, and it will file that document in the file cabinet in NetSuite, and it creates more efficiency when you want to attach a document to that transaction form.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, color-coding will help you keep track better—whether you're using a test or production environment—and then drag-and-drop can be helpful with forms.
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Daphne Peterson: Yes and filing those forms in the file cabinet and attaching them to that transaction record, that drag-and-drop.
Joshua Feinberg: Is that something you'd see a lot of beginners struggle early on to organize their files and structures and naming conventions?
00:10:21.300 --> 00:10:34.170
Daphne Peterson: What we have them do is organize their file structure as we're implementing, and then the drag-and-drop feature, when you drag it to that form, it knows which file cabinet to put it in, and it would also just attach it to that actual transaction record.
00:10:36.450 --> 00:10:42.510
Joshua Feinberg: Yeah, that, I’d imagine, is key to getting off on the right foot, as being able to think all of that through during onboarding, or else you end up with tortured coworkers down the road, who can't figure it out. That's kind of a good overview of what someone should do when they're brand-new to NetSuite as a beginner. What about someone that's a power user? If you were at Suite World, or a big conference, or online, or a LinkedIn group for NetSuite power users—maybe you were one-upping each other, “Hey, Daphne. Have you ever seen this before?”, or perhaps you had the ear of a product manager at NetSuite, and you were sharing kind of war stories of some of the complicated things you've worked through—what are your favorite tips for a power user that’s been using NetSuite for several years?
How NetSuite Power Users Can Improve Process, Analytics, and Sandbox Capabilities
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Daphne Peterson: So, one of my favorite tips is that now that you understand NetSuite, you know, and you’re a power user, I would look at your processes and consider some workflows. So, I usually recommend that you go with NetSuite Basic functionality when you implement it. Still, then once your team starts moving and getting faster, then that power user can look at those processes and create workflows actually to speed up things that are repetitious, right? So, there are point-and-click workflow wizards that power users can use, and they won’t necessarily have to have the developer help them. Using the power of the searches and then analyzing the data and recognizing that NetSuite is a single database makes the analytics much easier out of the box. So, understand the power of those searches, and then really consider having those sandboxes. So, NetSuite allows you to have as many sandboxes as you want, and you can push that production refresh to those sandboxes, and that way, you can test new solutions. Those workflows you create can test those in the sandbox before you push them to production. That would be helpful to use that sandbox for that capability.
00:13:17.820 --> 00:13:29.730
Joshua Feinberg: So, we got the process driving the workflows, the searches driving analytics, and then using the unlimited sandbox capabilities to test as you're rolling up into production. Does this vary much, depending on the kind of business? I know you mentioned manufacturing; you mentioned you've worked with a lot of software with a lot of SAS companies. Do any of these—in terms of setting up workflows, in terms of these searches or analytics—vary, depending on the vertical market, the kind of client you’re working with?
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Daphne Peterson: Well, you know, depending on what process you want to streamline and align, the workflow would vary, but the actual process of creating the workflow would not vary. It would still be the same functionality in NetSuite; it would have changed based on the industry.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, we talked about beginners; we talked about the advanced power user. When you think about all of the NetSuite users and consultants you've come across over the years, do you find that there is a pattern of common mistakes that a lot of people are making that you'd like to be able to save them from giving that much thought?
Avoiding NetSuite Mistakes With Resource Allocation During Projects
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Daphne Peterson: So, I find the best-organized projects are businesses that had created their use cases and thought about those use cases before they started implementing them. They also have that stakeholder in the business that helps drive that implementation and has the buy-in. I'm just finding that the clients that do that are so much more organized and that implementation and their users feel more confident that they're going to get that solution to do their job, and they're going to have solid test cases when they implement. I also suggest that you know, they keep it at first during that implementation as basic as they can, and then build on that after they're solid, making it through that implementation, and after they see that their users are getting faster, maybe two months after the implementation, and then one more thing I have is that clients should understand the allocation of the resources to that project. They then allocate people to the project, understand that they're not going to be able to do the full job that they were originally doing and that they're going to need time to work on.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, it sounds like there are three big mistakes to avoid. The first one is making sure that you've thought through the use cases, and the second part of that is making sure that you have a strong enough buy-in with the right stakeholders in the organization—ideally, the right kind of executive sponsor—to make sure that it doesn't get stuck just on lack of buy-in. The second thing: make sure that you start with really basic steps during the implementation. Allow a good few months, mostly for the users you're supporting to get up to speed and absorb the new system.
(??) Right, and so, you know, you can go to NetSuite Basic but understand the power of NetSuite. So, like, if I wanted to change one thing on every customer record, all I need to do in NetSuite is push a button, and it updates all the records for those customers. So, even though you're keeping NetSuite Basic, understand that there still is the power of NetSuite, but, you know, don't go all crazy with, you know, scripts, and workflows, and special processes. Look at NetSuite Basic functionality and add the fanciness later if you find you need it. But I'm finding that if clients keep it Basic, it's working for many different industries.
00:17:44.220 --> 00:17:52.020
Joshua Feinberg: And then the third mistake you said is a lot of people are not allocating the right amount of resources to the project, and just setting expectations might be a challenge.
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Daphne Peterson: Yes. Okay. Just calling it out at the beginning, you know, you're going to spend 75% doing your job, and 25% doing the project, and then, you know, calculating those resources to the project.
00:18:09.390 --> 00:18:23.610
Joshua Feinberg: So, in other words, if somebody is counting on continuing to do their job as a cost accountant, they need to make sure that they can only handle about 75-80% of the normal workload because if they're not giving you a day, day-and-a-half, a week for the projects, it’s not going to move forward.
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Daphne Peterson: Right, exactly.
The Future of Accounting, ERP, and NetSuite
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Joshua Feinberg: So, finally, I want to take a few minutes and express your thoughts on where the accounting industry is headed, where the ERP industry is headed, where NetSuite is headed. What do you think is going to change in the next six, 12, 24 months down the road that's going to have a profound impact on how companies are using NetSuite, that the typical users and implementations are engaging with RSM US, and how they get over the finish line and get up and running with NetSuite?
00:19:00.750 --> 00:19:07.590
Daphne Peterson: Right, so, you know, our environment’s changed a lot the last four or five months, and I'm finding that the clients want more efficiency and actual advisory, and sometimes they are doing that configuration work, but we are advising them for services and technology because, you know, we've been the longtime partner to them, and they're finding that, you know, we can help them through this trying time right now. I guess mainly it's, you know, being that partner but also helping them be more efficient and with RSM, we do a monthly newsletter, and we do educational webcasts that our clients can join and learn more about NetSuite. There are many changing roles with revenue and leasing, and we help educate them, and NetSuite seems to keep up with the updates and technology and changes, and, you know, county roles, and so, we just help them navigate that through these newsletters and educational tools, and that's the beauty of the cloud, too, is, you know, they can use NetSuite anywhere they are in the world, and we can get on these web tools and have discussions with them face-to-face and just finding more advisory services.
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Joshua Feinberg: So, you think that's the general trend: clients are going to be looking to do more of the basic configuration themselves and lean on a partner like RSM US more for the advisory work, the layers on top of that?
00:20:40.350 --> 00:20:50.550
Daphne Peterson: Right. Advisory work and technology piece, and advising them through that change they're trying to make, and that's where I see the trend.
00:20:51.570 --> 00:20:59.490
Joshua Feinberg: Would you see RSM US playing a continued role in training with the clients? Or are they getting that mostly direct from NetSuite?
00:21:01.560 --> 00:21:03.600
Daphne Peterson: I do a lot of training, and maybe they want to be more efficient in one area, or they want to add a module on. We have a client who wants to add a dummy module. You know, maybe they want to add fixed assets; then, we’ll reach out and train them on fixed assets. We’ll also hand them a desktop reference for a resource that will take them through probably a one or two-hour session to get them hands-on, and that doesn't need to be on-site. We've done it, you know, in these Zoom meetings, WebEx’s. I find that it's super helpful for them just to get a jumpstart on that process.
00:21:42.000 --> 00:21:48.330
Joshua Feinberg: So, you see kind of that ad hoc, highly customized training as still being an essential part of delivering the overall advisory services?
00:21:48.690 --> 00:21:49.650
Daphne Peterson: Yes, I do.
00:21:50.010 --> 00:22:00.630
Joshua Feinberg: Great. This has been terrific to get your thoughts on what beginners should think about with dashboards and color-coding and using the help to get the right answers out of the gate, what experts should be thinking about with process and workflows and looking to get rid of repetitions, work, and searches and pulling together with the analytics. The sandbox sounds like something—especially in an enterprise implementation—that's supercritical. If somebody's got a lot of tabs open, it sounds like a no-brainer to have them have it color-coded, so you don't get confused. The basic mistakes and making sure people plan the right time and get the right stakeholders involved and aren’t going crazy out of the gate with too many bells and whistles that could complicate basic adoption. This has all been terrific, Daphne. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today to get our viewers and listeners up to speed on the basics of NetSuite. If somebody has any questions or wants to follow what you're up to, are you active on social media? Is there a good way for somebody to keep in touch?
00:22:57.960 --> 00:23:14.700
Daphne Peterson: Yes, I'm on LinkedIn, Daphne Peterson, and rsmus.com. They can also reach me there, and if they need help on NetSuite, anywhere on the internet, you can type “RSM NetSuite” and find us. We have lots of good blogs. rsmus.com.
00:23:19.230 --> 00:23:29.070
Joshua Feinberg: Excellent. Education is such a big piece of getting this correct, and yeah, I follow RSM US on LinkedIn. I noticed you’ve got a lot of really good webinars on just a really important piece of making sure that you stay visible and attract like-minded clients, giving them the tools to succeed-- part of the reason we do podcasting. But yeah, Daphne, I appreciate you coming on the podcast today. Thanks again.
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Daphne Peterson: Appreciate your time. Thank you, Joshua.
00:23:48.090 --> 00:23:49.530
Joshua Feinberg: You're very welcome. Stay safe now.
What's your favorite NetSuite tip? And what did you find most valuable from Daphne Peterson's podcast interview? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And if you're serious about taking your NetSuite knowledge to the next level, download the free eBook: NetSuite Best Practices for Accounting and Mid-Marketing Consulting Firms || How Outsourced Accounting Providers, Virtual CFO’s, and System Integrators Can Support Fast-Growing Clients with NetSuite.