Last week, I sat down with Peter Cullen, a Quickbooks Pro Advisor and the Principal of Core Performance Consulting.
Sean Crafts (Co-founder of Mavenlink): Peter, thanks again for taking the time to talk. First, please explain your company.
Peter Cullen: Core Performance Consulting (Visionary Accounting for your business) serves our Customers as follows: we set-up and implement your QuickBooks software as a Real-Time financial management system. We teach you how to properly maintain your financial records, we work with your accounting staff, and show you how to read and understand your financial statements. The goal is to advise you to better manage your Company, take advantage of opportunities you may have and assist your decision making so you will achieve your personal and financial goals.
We are confident that our business finance, tax planning and performance improvement ideas will guide you to be more productive and profitable in your business and personal lives. You will also find that our passion is to make real the promise of managing your Company with "Real-Time Information" using the latest in online accounting and financial management technology tools available to business owners.
S: Let's set the table a bit. Where was your business in terms of Online Project Management or Collaboration tools when you first found Mavenlink?
P: I had already made the transition from being a very small accounting firm that is stuck within our four walls. I understood the value of partnering with other firms and individuals to leverage someone else’s talents that I didn’t have, and then bringing that as a package offering to a customer and saying “here’s the skill sets we have, here is what we can do”. And then in order to Project Management the whole thing, I was doing my work inside this big spreadsheet, and every week I would update the spreadsheet, and then send it to clients, subcontractors and team members so they knew what the heck was going on. Because as anyone who has ever consulted before knows, you won't get paid until the client can see the value that you’ve delivered. It was not an easy process to keep up to date, and it certainly was not user friendly.
S: So how are things going now that you and your team have access to Mavenlink?
P: I can actually look at a system implementation project in a 360 degree view. I can see all of the people that information directly with my client. They can view it whenever they want to. I don’t have to publish anything. Therefore it makes it easier for us to keep track of what’s going on.
S: Did you have any hesitation around bringing Client’s into the workspaces.
P: You know, I did a little bit., but Clients know trust is huge. When you are implementing software into another company, whether it is accounting software, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, they are making a huge leap that you know what needs to be done. As part of building that trust and maintaining that trust during the lifetime of the project, they want to be kept informed about important things that are happening during the lifecycle of that project. And that’s what Mavenlink does. It allows them at their convenience, without any prescribed time or meeting, take a look to see exactly where things stand.
S: So how did it go when you brought your Client's into Mavenlink?
P:The clients that we've used it with so far have universally said "This makes it easier for me to see what' happening, so I don't have to email you, or pester you, or play that game by witholding the check because I'm confused." I'm avoiding that whole dance after sending my invoices that usually starts with "Alright, what did you do for me?"
S: That's a key value proposition that I think needs to be highlighted. It is something that we constantly are trying to capture and synthesize into a short, memorable statement.
P: You end up doing all kinds of work around developing the initial relationship and opportunity, then back and forth as the work is in progress to build up partnership and collaboration, but then if you don’t have a way to manage the information about the project and update the project, the trust starts to erode.
S: What do you see happening today in the Services industry, and specifically in the Quickbooks software implementation industry?
P: There is an evolution in the services and Quickbooks software implementation world. The very same thing that is being preached to consulting firm is exactly what Mavenlink does. Glad that Mavenlink integrates with Quickbooks. You have to look beyond your four walls to find talent, you have to have a platform to share information and keep everyone on the same page, and you have to be able to communicate with your customer in a way that makes it easy for them to view it.
Looking specifically in the Quickbooks consulting and Quickbooks implementation area, many of us have extensive experience in delivering projects, but limited experience in collaborating effectively with our peers. We need somebody who can show us how this works. Show us why we should do it. Show us how to collaborate.
S: Do you see Mavenlink fitting into this new world of consulting?
P: Yes of course. It’s taken out so much of the leg work we used to do. I used to push all kinds of stuff out to tons of people through an email. I used to hate doing that. Now it is super easy to invite people in to Mavenlink, quickly show them everything they need to do, and where things stand.
Also, it's great that the system just works. For a business that works in the context of projects, Mavenlink syncs up with the way their mind works anyway. I have “x” number of projects this week, and this is what I need to work on. I need to target a couple of key things and ride herd on them to get done. Also, everyone is set up appropriately in the projects they need to see, you setup configurations and permissions one time, and then you never have to worry about who has access to what again.
S: How would you describe Mavenlink?
P: Here are some of the thoughts I would try to get across. This is a tool that we use to manage software implementation projects. We manage the overall scope of the project, the tasks, who's assigned to the projects, what they have to get done, the time frames they have to work within, and then sharing all of this appropriately with the client.
The integration with Quickbooks is a really cool selling point. It is difficult to have two separate databases that are always in flux. Mapping them and getting them to marry appropriately is key.
S: Anything else I missed?
P: We didn’t even talk about invoices. Most clients want a detailed invoice. Why not do all of that in Mavenlink? If you manage your project appropriate, everything a client would want to see from a detailed invoice perspective is staring right at them. All of your tasks and to-do's tied to your conversations. All of the time tracking and expenses you logged tied to the work you were doing. And the client sees it all. Sync the data to Quickbooks, and your accountant sees everything they need as well. It is beautiful.