As a taxation specialist, trainer and presenter, Carol-Ann Brouwer has in-depth knowledge of the changes in the accounting industry in Canada. Through her online training and eLearning services she’s also been ‘discovered’ as having a great voice for voiceovers, which is opening some interesting new doors...
You were an early adopter of Xero in Canada. How did you hear about it initially, and why did you get on board at the time?
I was teaching desktop software across Canada, and was approached to do training for Xero. I love it! I help with the ‘wow’ in Xero - “why do I need to switch to the cloud, and Xero, and choose addons that will save me time and money!”
You state that in just a few short years roughly half of Canadian small and midsized businesses (SMBs) have started using some cloud-based services, including cloud-based accounting solutions. What are the main advantages you see for the companies you’ve worked with?
The Canadian economy is built on small business, and there’s no limit. Who knew I’d have an accounting web team based in New Zealand? They specialized in what we wanted to achieve. We love cloud and all services that go with cloud. People all over the world help me with my business; cloud is global.
You can never keep a good thing a secret! People need to get past the fear of change. When you take away something comfortable and switch from desktop it meets with some opposition. But when you show what it CAN do for you, with unlimited users and accessibility across all devices, your life will be a lot simpler.
Which technology - apps, addons, software - do you find the most effective?
There’s a constant challenge keeping up, and it’s very important to stay on top of your game. Some of my preferences are:
- Hubdoc - they continue to innovate. (Note: Hubdoc is a big fan of Accounting Anywhere too, listing Carol-Ann among the top 50 cloud accounting firms in North America)
- Dear Systems - for inventory management, in particular
- Service-Mate - this is underestimated, with great integrations and new features.
- Spotlight - a great team, and great for reporting
- And Xero, of course, just keeps rolling out new features.
More firms are specializing, we can’t be all things to all people. Focus on a niche, on your key areas.
What marketing activity works best for you?
I have a great team that works with me. Give your existing clients an amazing customer experience and they’ll all go tell their friends. A happy client will go tell everybody. Social media keeps me out there, but I get most of my business through word of mouth referrals, then backed up by an online search.
It’s difficult in a new market to get the word out. Getting in front of an audience is helpful. Speaking and being able to answer questions, like around security, is important. We do any type of event for small business owners, and Blue Circle Training offers small business eLearning training, online. For overcoming obstacles, endurance and perseverance are the key.
Where do you see the accounting industry heading next?
For the early adapters, it’s great! But those who choose not to get involved will get left behind. There’s a need to embrace the cloud, to be cloud ready.
And that voiceover career…
There’s no doubt that embracing cloud can open the door to unexpected opportunities, and Carol-Ann is moving into professional voiceover work including commercials:
"These are exciting times, and there’s no limit to what you can achieve!"