As a self-proclaimed "Millennial in a Baby Boomer body," David Bergstein has a deep passion for using technology to make accounting easier.
After being twice-named to Accounting Today's Top 100 Most Influential People (and trying for the third time), David has had roles in corporate and private accounting settings. He strives to share his experience with others.
He encourages small-and-medium-sized firms to use digital tools, like QuickBooks Online and related apps, to streamline their accounting and reduce data entry. His advice for new and experienced accountants includes: "Figure out what your endgame is, organize your tools, and then move forward."
In this podcast episode, you'll learn how to:
- Figure out what your end game is, organize your tools, and then move forward.
- Know the apps that you want to connect to QuickBooks Online
- Look for tools and platforms that can automate and eliminate a lot of the data entry
- Find the right tools that automate processes and workflows
- Use bank feeds and bank rules to take advantage of the automation features within QuickBooks Online
- Go beyond compliance
- Transition into advisory services
- Prepare for the future as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor
David Bergstein's advice on QBO is also featured in QuickBooks Online and the Emerging Outsourced Accounting Practice | Expert Tips from Four ProAdvisors [Download the Free eBook].
Watch the Podcast Interview
Listen to the Podcast Interview
- Previously, a lack of executive support prevented businesses from transitioning from QuickBooks Desktop to QBO. "COVID-19 was the #1 reason why firms transitioned to QBO," states David Bergstein of Intuit.
- David Bergstein is an avid supporter of QBO apps, advising power users to use tools that increase efficiency: "Understand the process of what you're trying to do, the business you are advising, and what the client wants to do. Then analyze their workflow and figure out what tools will automate the processes, so there's nothing manual left." David advocates getting at least five positive references for a single app to make sure it will meet your expectations. Joining a group of accounting or bookkeeping influencers will also help you find the right apps for your tech stack.
- "Make sure the chart of accounts doesn't have duplicates or unused accounts," advises David Bergstein. "And don't forget to set up your sales tax preferences. Don't forget to lock a closed period, so your client can't go back and accidentally make an entry in something you closed."
- "If you want to add to the system, make sure you put a comment in the Help field. One of the nice things about Intuit is that we read the comments. If a lot of people put something down, then it goes into QuickBooks Labs, a beta site for every QBO product where we can look at what's being tested and try them out," advises David Bergstein. For instance, several years ago, users said they didn't like QBO reporting features. As a result of their comments, the reporting features were upgraded.
- "The role of an accountant is going from compliance to advisory services very quickly," says David Bergstein.
- Once you become an advisor, how will you help your clients? "Financial literacy," says David Bergstein. "Talk to the client about becoming more liquid, more solvent, and more profitable, and about putting money away to grow what's there."
- "Today, you can do what you wanted to do ten years ago but couldn't," says David Bergstein. "PCs and apps like Vic.ai are out to automate and bring a little artificial intelligence to an accounting platform such as QuickBooks Online. In the next 18 months, everyone will eliminate data entry." According to David, "Decision software will help accountants advise their clients."
A lightly-edited transcript follows below:
David Bergstein (00:00):
What's the workflow, and then analyze their workflow. And figure out what tools could automate the processes. So there's nothing manual left. The big tip I give people is: Are you using all the tools that are out there?
Podcast Announcer (00:16):
Welcome to the AI in Accounting Podcast. Now here's your host, Joshua Feinberg of Vic.ai.
Joshua Feinberg (00:29):
So I'm here with David Bergstein, who is an evangelist for Intuit, spends a lot of time talking to accounting firms that work with the QuickBooks platform. David, thanks so much for joining me today for our new podcast
David Bergstein (00:46)
My pleasure, Joshua. I talk with many firms that just want to go in the cloud, whether they're using QuickBooks or not. But I think this pandemic is changing the people who believed for the last five years, we've got to go to the cloud. We've got to go to the cloud. And now all of a sudden, we have to be there by tomorrow. So it's changed what's happened there. So I do a lot of digital disruption. I'm changing my title from evangelist to digital disruptor.
Joshua Feinberg (1:14)
A cartoon or meme was going around the web a couple of weeks ago: which of the following was most responsible for the acceleration of digital transformation.
Joshua Feinberg (01:23)
It was like CEO buy-in, an analyst report, and the not-so-funny part was COVID-19. And it's interesting, having been in this role in marketing, sales, and digital for the last seven years is people were in denial about all tech. This sped up the timetable across the board.
David Bergstein (01:45)
It's going to change as a technology change going on that's completely different than the past. But there's a lot of cultural stuff that'll go with this also that you consider. A good example: my daughter, her husband, her two kids, they're all at home. Homeschool. They're both working at home. You need four computers. I've been on some conference calls with people that haven't worked remotely, where I've worked remotely for the last 30 years.
David Bergstein (02:20):
So I'm used to it. So, people who are just coming home, the babies are in the conference call with them. But that's normal for people who work at home. You just got to accept it. So it's a big change for people who aren't used to it. But firms are starting to say, "Hey, I better get rid of excess space now." Because when we go back to the new normal, people who have opened new offices -- the open office concept -- you got people looking at each other. That's what people did. But now you're saying, "Wait a second. We can't have them across the table. We got to go back to cubicles or walls. A lot of changes are going on.
Joshua Feinberg (02:59)
Yeah. That's a perfect place to start. I usually like to get some background and understand a little more about your career journey, where you fit in the big picture with Intuit, how you got to where you are, and what advice you'd give to people looking to follow a similar path.
Leaning Towards Technology
David Bergstein (03:18):
Interesting. It can take me all day to give you my background, but I'll make it very short. I am a Millennial in a baby boomer's body. That means I've been around a while. I am a CPA, CITP, CGMA. I do have a remnant of a small accounting practice left. So I still do taxes and accounting for people, though limited because I keep reducing it. I've been in this industry since we used paper and pencil to do a tax return, paper, and carbon to do accounting writeup, where you would have carbon paper, a safeguard system. And you'd be writing the checks and going to the general ledger and the subsidiary ledger. Cause you had two pieces of carbon paper in there. So I've seen a lot. I have always been leaning towards technology, so I've always followed my technology path.
David Bergstein (04:16):
I've been a VP at an accounting company. I've been a director of sales. And I moved over to Intuit about six years ago, when one of my friends, the VP, moved over said, "do you want to come over?" And that's when Intuit just restarted a physical sales force for the field. And it's been an exciting journey. I enjoy it. And my goal now is to help other people, whether they be salespeople or support people, CPA's. Let them know what I've seen in the past. No matter what we say about Lean Six Sigma. The same programs keep coming back. The only difference is today; you can do what you thought you wanted to do ten years ago that you couldn't, it's the PCs, computers, apps Vic.ai to automate a bring a little artificial intelligence into an accounting platform such as QuickBooks Online. Now we can do what we always wanted to do. Within the next year and a half, everyone will eliminate data entry, and everything will go through the accounting system automated. If you're using decision software on the other side, it's going to help you advise your client. The role of an accountant is going from compliance to advisory services very, very quickly through COVID-19. I helped a couple of people fill out their PPP and EIDL loans because that's what you had to do. I had to say, "No, it can't do a tax return. Let's get the money so you can stay in business."
Joshua Feinberg (06:00):
That makes sense -- rapidly, rapidly changing. And everyone wants to be an advisor, at least the people who are thinking ahead want to be advisors. Some of them have a clearer path to get there. Some of them need a lot more webinars, podcasts, and courses to help them along. Change is hard. We hosted a webinar on digital transformation. And the people part of it can be almost as challenging or more than the technology.
David Bergstein (06:27):
Well, I agree with you, and that's where the culture comes in. People have to be willing. You've learned in the past. You've got to unlearn, and you got to relearn. That's a thing. Barry Melancon, head of the AICPA, keeps saying that. And then the rate of change is going so fast now. You have to pick a path, and then you have to stick with it for a while. You can't keep jumping from "place A" to "place B" when choosing what you need to do. You just have to figure out what your end game is, organize your tools, and then move forward.
QuickBooks Online Tips for Beginners
Joshua Feinberg (07:04):
Speaking of tools, the focus for what I wanted to talk with you today is QuickBooks Online. And the first place I want to start with is to get your advice for what you tell someone that's brand new to using the platform, either a CPA or a small business, somebody that may have had limited exposure to another accounting software platform in the past. What's your favorite tip for a beginner?
David Bergstein (07:30):
My favorite tip is probably the most basic. Invest in understanding the basics. When you sign up for QuickBooks Online, there are tutorials, especially when referring to an accountant. You click on the ProAdvisor tab, and you have training and tutorials. You don't have to be a certified ProAdvisor to take the training. I'd recommend taking the training tutorials, going through the packages, getting a thorough understanding of what it does, and then get certified to show you have some level of expertise. I am a certified ProAdvisor, I've taken the course, I've taken the refreshers. And I keep updating myself because of the one thing about online software versus desktop: online changes much more frequently. So you should take a refresher every year to know what's changed and keep up with what's there. So if you look at the getting started tutorials within QBO, it'll make you more comfortable with how the system works. How to manage bills, how to input costs. They're well-constructed, so I recommend looking into tutorials. So that's my basic tip for beginners: understand what you're doing and go through all of our education materials. Videos are great for short tips. The tutorials will work you through the system.
Joshua Feinberg (08:55):
So first things first: invest the time to learn. You have to get it right. So rather than just winging it.
David Bergstein (09:02):
As you're doing that, then you got to choose a secure password. You got to enter the company information correctly, enter customer details, employee details. You got to set it up right. If you don't set it up right, you actually screw it up. And that's why a lot of accountants, Certified ProAdvisors, and bookkeepers get a lot of business. A small business person buys it and doesn't ask for help setting it up. I teach college accounting also. And I tell everybody who is a student, if you're going to set up a business, don't just fill out the paperwork and decide you want to be an LLC, a corporation. Talk to an accountant or an attorney. Get your advice up front. Same thing. Whenever you're starting something, learn, understand what the tool is that you're using. If you set things up right, life goes a lot easier.
Best Practices for QuickBooks Online Power Users
Joshua Feinberg (10:00):
So at the other end of the spectrum, thinking about the power user, the ProAdvisor with five, ten years of experience or more on the platform. You go to so many events, I'm sure people come up to you all the time. "David, can I pick your brains about this?" What's your favorite tip for somebody that's advanced. Maybe you're having a beer with them, and they're trying to one-up you on "Did you ever…?"
David Bergstein (10:25):
Well, that's a great question. If they ask me for a great tip, I always refer them to other people who are using the software more regularly than me. In actuality, I did ask around a couple of Certified ProAdvisors: what is the biggest tip you give somebody? One of them is knowing the apps that you want to connect to QuickBooks Online. There are hundreds of apps out there. There are only X amount that are in the QuickBooks App Store. Understand the process of what you're trying to do, which has nothing to do with QuickBooks. But it is the best tip for someone who's experienced. Understand the business you're about to advise what it is the client wants to do. What is the setup for their retail system? Or their service business? Or their manufacturing business? What's the workflow? Then analyze their workflow and figure out what tools can automate the processes.
David Bergstein (11:27):
So there's nothing manual left. And the big tip I give people is: Are you using all of the tools out there? If you talk to 20 people, they'll give you their favorite advice, which is going to be different based on what they are. But I happened to like an app called Transaction Pro Importer. I think it's owned by Right Networks now. It's a little tool that helps you bring in other products into QuickBooks, so you don't have to enter it manually. It's a utility app. Maybe a Vic.ai can figure out a way to follow some of that cause you write a lot of APIs to bring data in and put data out. That's my biggest tip for someone who's experienced.
Joshua Feinberg (12:17):
Is understanding the process, understanding workflow, understanding the overall business problems, and then looking for tools and platforms that can automate and eliminate a lot of the data entry.
David Bergstein (12:27):
Right. I can name a hundred apps, but many apps do the same thing. So the key is to ask other people by word of mouth, "what do you use, and why do you like it?" I won't recommend anything unless I speak to five users of that particular app or software. And they tell me why they like it. When I ask an app provider, "Hey, tell me someone who likes your product so I can talk to them." They only give me one name, that's not going to satisfy me. I need more names. Once you get past three, four, five people that like it, I don't care about the other 20 that don't. Because everybody that likes software, there's someone that doesn't like it. But if you give me five that like it, it means it works.
Joshua Feinberg (13:20):
It's interesting. If you think about the evolution of where people were getting their recommendations in the earliest days of Intuit, in the heyday of publications, like PC Magazine, you read that. You go to some offline conferences and how you think about the whole software review site ecosystem with sites like G2 and Capterra and just the whole idea of people constantly reviewing things, the Amazonification of everything, looking for that social proof. This is the age-old stuff that hasn't changed. It's just evolved into new formats.
David Bergstein (13:56):
If you're an accountant or bookkeeper, join a group of accounting influencers, bookkeeping influencers. And see what they're doing.
Navigating Around the Biggest Mistakes with QuickBooks Online
Joshua Feinberg (14:09):
What do you see is the biggest mistake people make when they're adopting QuickBooks Online as the standard platform for their accounting practice?
David Bergstein (14:24):
I think the biggest mistake is something very straightforward: not using bank feeds and bank rules. We use the word bank rules, bank feeds, and automation. But bank feeds include credit cards. So utilize credit cards and banks that automatically go into QBO and set up the rules. Once you set up the rules on an Excel spreadsheet, you can copy those roles from client to client. You don't have to remake them. So you may put more rules into a particular client because it doesn't apply. But if you have one master sheet, you can use it over and over. So to me, the biggest mistake is not taking advantage of the automation features within QuickBooks. The biggest one, not using bank feeds. When you set up a chart of accounts, make sure it doesn't have duplicates or unused accounts. Not setting up sales tax preferences would be another one. Forgetting to lock a closed period. So your client can't go back and accidentally open it, make an entry in something you closed. Know how to lock down the period, so clients can't go back and open it up.
Joshua Feinberg (15:43):
So it sounds like there are many essential workflows and processes to adopt at the firm level, both with onboarding and setting up the chart of accounts and sales tax preferences. And then on a more ongoing basis: remembering to lock out the period when you close it out.
David Bergstein (16:03):
I can enumerate probably 25 other things. Going back to what's my favorite tip for beginners, as well as experience: go out the internet and Google best tips for beginners. Best hacks and tricks for experienced uses. You'll probably find ten or more posts on each of those things. And you'll see some duplications. So you'll know what the best tip is. But I still like taking the tutorials starting up. Because QuickBooks is the most widely used software product out there for small- to medium-businesses. It's got a lot of users, a lot of experts. There's a lot of information about it. It continually improves. In COVID-19, what's every business running on how? Tell me my cash flow. Help me do the cash flow.
David Bergstein (17:04):
So they put cashflow features into the software to help people. Now, when someone goes in, they better look at, "Hey, there's a new tool out here to help me work with cash flow." Or you have an app that you can add cash flow to also. But a lot more things are going into QBO based on people. That's a good tip. Also, if you see something that you want to add to the system, make sure you put a comment in Help. One of the nice things about Intuit is we read the comments. If a lot of people put something down and it goes into QuickBooks Labs, which is like a beta site, which is out there. QuickBooks Labs is in every QBO product. So you can always see what, "Hey, they're testing this out. Let me try it or let me look at it." So that's another helpful thing.
Joshua Feinberg (17:54):
So there is no excuse for somebody grumbling silently that something's driving them nuts. There's plenty of chances for them to speak up and make their voice heard. So somebody on a product management team sees it.
David Bergstein (18:06):
Right. And the product manager sees it a hundred times and says, "okay, this looks like something we'd better be doing because it's a request." We've changed a lot about our reporting tools. In the beginning, with QuickBooks Online, people didn't like the reporting tools -- modified, changed, enhanced, added to, over the last six years. I'm getting a lot of "wow's" for what's within QBO to do customized reports. They couldn't do that before. That's what goes on; we're very big on customer support, even though at times, it doesn't seem like that when everyone's calling at the same time.
The Future for QuickBooks Online and ProAdvisors
Joshua Feinberg (18:52):
Last question I wanted to ask you today: what are your thoughts on ProAdvisors, accounting firms that are heavily standardized on QBO, where they should be thinking big picture about where their practice should be moving in the next few years They usually don't have a product manager as somebody from their firm wearing that hat and thinking ahead a little bit. But what are your thoughts on starting a new firm or running a firm like this, that's in a growth mode?
David Bergstein (19:18):
I'm a millennial in the baby boomer's body. I'm not a millennial with my accounting practice. I've had my accounting practice for over 30 years. I've been in a partnership with other people. My practice is winding down. I don't take new clients, and my clients are my age. But they have children. And the children want to go into some of the businesses and take over. The future of accounting is to me all about advisory services. Everything that we've been doing and everything that will transpire you wouldn't be here today if Vic.ai didn't come up with a new way to automate and streamline the processes when it comes to accounts payable. So if I want to help my clients, I want to talk to them.
David Bergstein (20:16):
I want to set them up. I want to automate everything, and then I want to help them advisory-wise. I don't want to be in wealth management, which means financial literacy. Talk to the client about any being more liquid, more solvent, more profitable, and how they should be putting money away to grow. What's there? If I need to bring in a wealth management person, I will. But again, as a small CPA, my goal is to help my clients grow. I can help them grow. If I'm working with them monthly. QBO gives me the ability to take a once a year tax client that would come in with their desktop software once a year and have to fix it. Now I say, let's meet monthly, quarterly, semi-annually. I can have a dashboard in front of me. And that's what the whole future is.
David Bergstein (21:09):
I picture my office right now is three monitors. I picture those that are in their profession. They're going to have their clients' information up there with KPIs. Are they liquid? Are they solvent? Are the receivables overdue? Because artificial intelligence software is going to tell me where they're at and give me a red light, green light. And if I can help them by asking them what's important to them, and then helping them with advisory services, they're happy. Compliance is going to be there; compliance is never going away. One of the things about being a small accountant is people still need their tax returns done. I pushed away most of my clients to TurboTax to do it automatically. Because the clients have less of a need for me to input data and more of a need to say, "Hey, you better be putting money aside in a 529 plan for your grandkids.
David Bergstein (22:09):
This is how you can help them transfer wealth. So that's where I'm spending my time. Automation is making it easier. The top accounting firms in the world used to input the data into an Individual tax return. It digitally comes in from the bank, or scan, or from an auto product across the board. They don't have to enter it. Artificial intelligence, machine learning has learned that this transaction goes here or there. And the beauty of accounting, as far as I'm concerned, you can't do a business tax return until you do the accounting. That's why accounting really will never go away. There's always going to be someone walking into a Baskin Robbins and giving them a credit card to buy ice cream. And if you can automate that point of sale system, that they take the credit card and it debits to cash, or accounts receivable, or credit card receivable, and credits the sale of vanilla ice cream versus chocolate ice cream versus lemon ice cream. You're getting statistics from a transaction to a journal, to a ledger, and QuickBooks Online. And now, it's more important to get the data analytics out the other side. So you can see, look, they spent money buying lemon ice cream, but they only sold two lemon barrels, but 50 barrels of chocolate. Maybe they shouldn't be offering lemon. It's a wasted product. That's where the advisory services come in and make it simple, but may not be that simple.
Joshua Feinberg (23:37):
It seems like technology is a big part of providing advisory services more cost-effectively, quicker to a broader cross-section of clients, even those that may be from relatively small companies.
David Bergstein (23:46):
Every accounting firm I talked to over the last four weeks stopped working on tax returns, even though many of them are putting it off until July. They wanted to help their clients stay in business. And that was advisory services. Those that have set up for it, charging their clients not by the hour, but based on a fixed fee. They're better off helping their clients, to keep their clients in business that keeps their cash flow. It keeps the clients’ cash flow. And that has nothing to do with compliance and has everything to do with being here to help them with the knowledge as a financial person.
Joshua Feinberg (24:34):
All about knowledge and education and building trust.
David Bergstein (24:38):
It's all about building trust. And one of the things that I've learned, even though I'm teaching college to people coming in first-year accounting: you have to keep learning because there's always something new that comes out that you want to know about. One of my favorite things, not to mention another product, as I have an audience of a hundred accountants out there. And I'd say, have any of you ever heard of a Venmo, a mobile cash sharing app. But half of them don't raise their hands. I know that either has no kids or they don't know what's going on with technology. And that's how I classify the group I'm speaking to because it's a great way to put money around.
Joshua Feinberg (25:22):
This is all excellent. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today. David, what's the best way for somebody to keep up with what you're working on. Follow you, connect with you, reach out to you. If they have any questions.
David Bergstein (25:32):
I have a Twitter account, David Bergstein, and have a LinkedIn account: David Bergstein. I post a lot of things that are relevant in the industry, whether it's Intuit-related or non-Intuit-related. If I think it's something that helps accountants, bookkeepers, small business people, I'll put it out there. But I sort of stick to the technology and where I can. But right now, I'm just hoping we get past this pandemic. We're all in it together. We got to share everything. We've gotta help. And then I want to get out on the pickleball court again.
Joshua Feinberg (26:11):
Sounds like a great plan. I really appreciate your time. Thanks so much, David.
David Bergstein (26:15):
And thank you for the time.
Podcast Announcer (26:18):
Thanks for listening to this episode of the AI in Accounting Podcast. To subscribe and leave a review, check us at blog.vic.ai or wherever you like to consume podcast episodes, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.
What's your favorite QBO tip? And what did you find most valuable from David Bergstein's podcast interview? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And if you're serious about taking your QuickBooks Online knowledge to the next level, download the free eBook: QuickBooks Online and the Emerging Outsourced Accounting Practice | Expert Tips from Four ProAdvisors.