Virtual CPA Success Show Podcast Episode 108
As partners of SoDA (Society of Digital Agencies), Summit directors Jody, Jamie, and Christy recap a recent event in Mexico City and share their experiences and key takeaways—both for Summit and their digital agency clients. They highlight the importance of networking and learning from others' experiences in the digital agency industry. Jody discusses a trend that he’s seeing in the industry, which is the need for a flatter, more agile organization, and the benefits of using software like Parallax for capacity management. Christy takes it all in as her first time at a SoDA event, and Jamie expresses his excitement for new AI enhancements in the industry.
intro (00:00:00) - Welcome to the virtual CPA Success Show for Creative Agencies, the go to resource for agency owners looking to scale their business. Join us every week to stay ahead of the curve and position your agency for future success.
Jamie (00:00:15) - Hello, everybody. Welcome to today's podcast. I'm excited to talk with some of my my friends here that I just hung out with down in Mexico City. So welcome to the show, Christine and Jody. How are you guys doing since we've been back?
Jody (00:00:27) - Recovering
Christy (00:00:27) - Very good.
Jamie (00:00:31) - Yeah, there's a little bit of a stomach bug going down there in Mexico City. We're not sure what caused it, but some of us caught it, some of us didn't. So, yeah, we're, uh, we're back in the States now, and we're we're ready to go. So we were talking about the soda event. So there was a soda event in September down in Mexico City, and there was about 120 participants there. And just for those that haven't been to a soda event before, how it works is it's a it's a mix of keynote speakers and also some small presentations as well as some breakout groups.
Jamie (00:01:02) - So a lot of good content and a lot of chance just to really talk with agencies on on how they're feeling, what they're doing and some of the projects they're working on. So think um, any other thoughts on the on the soda event you guys like to add about how the how the format is?
Jody (00:01:18) - I think format. I think that. Yeah. Go ahead. Christy.
Christy (00:01:21) - No. That's fine. Go ahead.
Jody (00:01:24) - Think the soda event. I mean, think the the keynote speakers, the breakouts, all that kind of stuff is great. But I think the biggest thing is just simply mixing and mingling afterwards and sharing candid conversations on how things are going in the industry, how things are going with their shops, what's going right, what's going wrong. I think those are really the biggest takeaways that you get from really any event. So for those that just simply go for speakers and stuff like that, I think they're missing out on it. I think they really need to be mixing and mingling, and I think Thomas Soda does a great job at making sure that happens.
Christy (00:01:57) - Yeah. I would also add that his team does such a nice job of keeping everything organized. The materials that we had as far as leave behind so we could reference back to things. Just fantastic. So shout out to Tom Beck, Kendall, Jess and Nakai. You guys are fantastic.
Jamie (00:02:14) - Yeah, definitely agree. And think to Jody's point, I think actually it's both your guy's point. They do a good job making sure that you are mingling. You know, one of the nice things they do is the first day you're there, they give you a sign tables, and then you do some breakouts where you're talking to different people. But then the next day you come in and you're sitting at a different table next to different people. So they even for those that are uncomfortable mixing and mingling like they make a point to make you really, really feel comfortable there. So again, I agree. I've met a lot of cool people and had a lot of great conversations about what's going on with the industry.
Jamie (00:02:43) - So what I'd like to do now is just kind of, you know, one of the things that we do when we come back from these conferences internally. And so we're going to kind of give you guys an inside look is we just each talk about our takeaways, you know, each of us go to different, hear different speakers or talk to different people, but also go to different breakouts. So it's kind of fun to get together and hear what each person took away. And so I'm going to start with you, Christy. What was one your big takeaway from this three-day event?
Christy (00:03:07) - Yeah, I think my biggest takeaway would be that, you know, obviously there were a lot of it's a digital agency conference. Right. And I think there's definitely some uncertainty with the market right now of, you know, whether we're headed for a recession, whether people think we're in a recession. However, I think that there was a very high positive spirit throughout the room. So a lot of people were focused on how do we come up with solutions, and we're very positive about it.
Christy (00:03:33) - I think whenever you like go through situations like that, you can either kind of wallow in it and make it more negative or you can bring it up. And I think that they did a really nice job of everyone in the room was really focused on how can we make it better. Michael Ventura, he did a fantastic talk about leading with empathy, and I think that's one of the things that's extremely important whenever we're talking about the digital agency space and in leadership in general. And then Rashenda from integrity, she did a really fantastic job about global growth and kind of what that means and, you know, choosing the right words to say to make sure that we're being diverse and collective together in a positive manner. So that was that's probably my biggest takeaway is the positivity.
Jamie (00:04:16) - It's great. Yeah. No. Think, uh, the nice thing for for me, as a leader in this organization, a leader at summit is, is I learn a lot about the agencies and what they're doing, but also have some takeaways for myself.
Jamie (00:04:28) - And I think those speakers both really rung out to me. And I think there was during both those talks, Jody and I were texting each other about ideas of like, oh, why aren't we doing this? Or why can't why can't we take some of these steps? And so I think that happens at every meeting is not only do we learn about the clients that we serve, but we also take a lot of stuff internally. So think that's also a big part of these events for us, or at least for me. Yeah.
Jody (00:04:49) - For sure. I mean, my mind was I, you know, Jack skills with agency as a friend for a long time and he did a really good talk on, you know, basically that we're getting too bloated in management. That was one of the things I took away. It's like, are we truly getting bloated? And I was looking internally, but I was looking at firms themselves. As they get bigger, we tend to create jobs and titles and so forth.
Jody (00:05:13) - And those titles don't necessarily have really anything to add value to, you know? It's so so he's more focusing on an agile organization when it's a little flatter, that has less management and in turn becomes a lot more profitable. Because as we grow, a lot of times we grow, but we grow unprofitable. And that's because, again, we're adding layers of people, because labor is our number one expense in the agency world. And with that, we have to make sure that we're managing that effectively. And so Jack gave a really great, great talk on it. And I'm sure that talks probably, you know, somewhere out in the internet, somewhere we can look at it, but really talks about breaking it down from, you know, hey, the old way of doing things versus, you know, really here's the way that that's going to be that you'll be more profitable in a better run company.
Jamie (00:06:03) - And that's the theme of his new book, right, is about the management effect and, you know, having too many managers.
Jamie (00:06:08) - So I think that if anyone is really interested and think to Jodi's point, one of the things we see a lot, both internally and externally is, as people grow and they're in their careers, they want to grow with title and they want to grow into different roles. And so if you're trying to accommodate that across the board, sometimes you get, wow, have 15 managers and four workers, like, how is this ever going to work? So it's a pretty common problem among small businesses because you don't it's not like you're at a 10,000 person company where you have room for that. Many managers, you know, you have to eventually figure out ways to still challenge people, still help people grow without putting them into that manager role. Yeah.
Jody (00:06:43) - Which kind of leads to the second one, you know. You know, we had actually a couple or a couple talks ourselves. And one of them was with Tom O'Neil with Parallax. And we I really dig it a ton out of that, even though we, we actually gave the presentation, which is kind of funny.
Jody (00:06:58) - Normally you don't get a ton out of your own presentation, but hearing Tom's insight while we were giving the presentation, I thought was pretty eye opening on, you know, really what resourcing, how resourcing comes into play in making decisions and so forth, and how easy it is for us to do it on a back of a napkin or do it on an Excel spreadsheet or doing something like that, which is very vulnerable to mistakes. And using a software like a parallax to help plan has really made really our lives a lot easier here at summit, you know, with our clients. But I could see how that something like that would really benefit clients in general.
Christy (00:07:35) - Yeah. It's like all about capacity management, right? I think all of us kind of go through that. So the parallax tool was really helpful in that way. And so I'm glad that we were able to collaborate with them.
Jamie (00:07:45) - Yeah. Think collaborating with Tom was a great idea. You know, we do our presentations, and we get.
Jamie (00:07:51) - Not that they're bad presentations, but sometimes we get a little canned, and Jody and I end up telling the same stories when you when you throw a different party in there, it's just, oh, then you work off each other a little bit more. So having Tom there, someone we've worked with a lot, talked to a lot and gone to a lot of events with it. There's a natural flow there of making our breakout groups better. So definitely appreciate having Tom there.
Jody (00:08:11) - So Jamie what's your what's your big one there.
Jamie (00:08:14) - Yeah. So I was blown away by AI again. So anytime I go to one of these events you know the big topics nowadays are I and as a someone in the in the finance area and the accounting area, I'd say for a person in that background, I'm pretty up to speed on AI. But when you go to something like this or people who are working with it every day, it's just shocking to me how much, how much you can do.
Jamie (00:08:37) - And there was a speaker, Wesley Taha, who went up there and spoke, and the line that resonates with me that he said, and he spoke for about 30 minutes. But the one line I keep going back to is, today AI is the worst that it's ever gonna be. And that's just AI that's just in general, right? Like AI is getting better every day because it learns from itself. It's artificial intelligence. So the same was true yesterday. The same was true the day before that. And the same is true tomorrow, is that AI is the worst it's ever going to be. So it just keeps getting better and better. So think that the speaking was really good. But then after that, what really helped me was this going into a breakout group was in a breakout group for about an hour, and just hearing what people were doing with AI is really important when it comes to AI is having those conversations. And I had a list of I think I took three pages of notes in that one hour breakout of just ideas of stuff I can do that I didn't never would have thought of before if I wasn't hearing other people do it.
Jamie (00:09:27) - And so that to me is the key. And I think since I've been back, I think we've been back like 3 or 4 weeks now, like I've already started creating a Wikipedia bot for our clients, for our CFOs like a wiki bot, where they can come in and just ask questions and take all of our meetings, all of our trainings, all of our notes and have it in one spot where people could just ask a question instead of having to like, search. How do I what's a bank I can use from my clients? They can actually interact with a bot and get those questions answered. And so that's one thing I've worked on. We're being a lot more proactive about recording our meetings and using AI for that. And so again, that's the biggest takeaway for me. And really what I've been spending the majority of my time since I've been back is implementing some of these ideas that people have. And so if you know a lot about AI or you don't know a lot about AI, my advice is, is find a group just to once a month or frequently just sit down and talk about what they're doing because you're going to hear something that you hadn't thought of, because I know I did.
Jody (00:10:22) - Yeah. Now, Jamie mentioned earlier they took three pages of notes. Now again, that's one word per page. Just keep that in mind out there.
Jamie (00:10:30) - I've really big handwriting. Yeah. No I could not write fast enough. Like, I'm pretty sure my paper was almost on fire, like smoking with all my notes, so. But yeah, that was my biggest takeaway. And then after that, like the amount of people would, was probably the annoying guy in the room. They kept asking people about AI after like at all the dinners and stuff, because I was so, like somewhat obsessed with it after that, after that breakout.
Jamie (00:10:56) - Cool.
Jamie (00:10:56) - So I loved hearing everybody in the rooms. Experience is like said, we all kind of get different experiences when we go. Anybody talk to someone that they just in a side conversation joined. So those are important. Anyone did you talk to anybody that just kind of like brought an opinion to you or something you hadn't thought of before.
Jamie (00:11:13) - And just in those side conversations.
Jody (00:11:15) - Yeah, a lot of side conversations. I guess my biggest one is kind of funny. It's that I found that one of the people that go to Mexico City to find out, I've got a neighbor, and then we're going to start playing pickleball literally within a half a mile to a mile from my house. So that's kind of funny. You go to Mexico City to find someone that lives right next to you. But yeah, I would say, you know, the side conversations, you know, we're fairly similar. A lot of them are talking about the uncertainty in the environment. Christy mentioned a little bit earlier about how deals are starting to take longer to close, the uncertainty on whether they're going to close or not, and just kind of the stretching out of what's going to happen. And, you know, from my view, 2024, you know, are we going to have a recession? Are we in one so forth? I think it's going to become more and more, um, you know, prevalent for everyone.
Jody (00:12:03) - You know, they're going to have a better they're going to have to actually work that into their modeling, other forecasting, modeling. And then in addition to that, we've got the elections coming up. So usually there's some you know, there's some big pauses before elections. You know uncertainty. So 2024 will be a little I think a little different. Um, and you have to make sure that you're managing that in a solid forecast, a solid, you know, basically being on top of it on a regular basis and making decisions quickly, making sure you've got the cash in your in your bank to be able to handle that. I think those are the really big conversations that we had outside of that, outside of the fact that pickleball is a great game to start working.
Jamie (00:12:46) - Have you started playing yet? That's what I want to know.
Jody (00:12:48) - No, I have not been back. This is my first couple of days.
Jamie (00:12:51) - Oh that's true even traveling. Yeah, I've been traveling.
Jamie (00:12:55) - That will be fine. I'm excited to see you become that pickleball guy. That's all you talk about. Like people. Pickleball is one of those things where people just become obsessed with it. And it's like every meeting. I play pickleball this morning. So excited to see Jodie become the pickleball.
Jody (00:13:07) - No, but.
Jody (00:13:07) - I will add to that. I just get back from another conference that was an AI CPA event which is an accounting basic accounting society event, national event. And they had had one of the founders of one of the high executives of ChatGPT speak, and that was a that was pretty enlightening kind of piggyback on what was talked at the Soda conference and how AI, you know, basically they gave us a runway from to 2026, how AI is going to change things so dramatically from now to 2026. They'll be doing things completely different. So that was pretty eye opening. And just basically hearing that concept alone, not just simply changing the way that we do things, but changing everything, which was pretty, pretty amazing to hear some insight from somebody that helped create the, you know, the platform we're using today.
Jamie (00:14:02) - Great. Yeah. No. Again, I wish I was at the conference with you because that's been my obsession. But then I'm sure you took lots of notes for me. So any final thoughts from you, Christy, before we hand this over to our listeners?
Christy (00:14:14) - Yeah, it was a little bit like drinking from a fire hose for me because it was my first soda event. So of course there was so many people already had relationships, so I was kind of jumping into it with both feet. Luckily, they did have a lot of like icebreakers, almost like speed dating, get to know each other events. And then I took it upon myself to, you know, make sure at dinners and after dinners get to know people. So that was really positive as well. And a lot of the folks that were there in our ideal client profile. And so it made it easier for the conversations because they're going through some of the same things that are existing clients are going through. So I really enjoyed it.
Jamie (00:14:51) - Yeah. Guess it's a first time attendee. Mean for our listeners. Think hopefully most of our listeners have some kind of event like this they go to. But if not, if their people are hesitant, what kind of advice would you give to a first time attendee?
Christy (00:15:02) - Um, go into it just very positive. Think about if you can get an attendees list first in advance and really like think about the people that you want to build relationships with. Who is there from a mentor perspective that you could learn from? Those are the things that I would do. And as far as like the lunches and dinners, make sure you're attending, make sure you're sitting at a different table instead of getting stuck with the same people all the time. Kind of spread yourself around because there's so many, like there's so much diversity of thought and so many dynamic people in the room, you want to get a chance to know everyone.
Jamie (00:15:37) - Yeah. And I think the funny thing is, is, yeah, the three of us were together in the same country, in the same city for four days, but hardly even talked to each other because that's, you know, we definitely take that model of, let's go, let's go meet as many people as possible.
Jamie (00:15:49) - Like, it would have been easy for the three of us to have every dinner together and just kind of stay in our comfort zone, but like, no, all three of us don't really feel like that's the purpose of going there. So we try to get out and talk to as many people as possible. Yeah.
Jody (00:16:00) - And I do say definitely take care of don't go to an event like that with the idea that, hey, you're going to clock out at 5:00 and then do something on your own the rest of the time. If you do that, great. I just don't think you're going to capture the all the extra benefits that you get from just conversing with other people, you know, having a drink at the bar, whether you drink or not, you know, glass of water or whatever it might be, having a drink at the bar, going out for dinner afterwards, you know, that sort of thing. That's where really you get the best bang for your buck in an event like that.
Jamie (00:16:31) - Yeah, definitely. So? So. Yeah. Conclusion. Find an event. Find people to talk to. Find people that have common interests as you to talk to. And again, I would highly recommend soda not only because the event is great, but also they choose really cool locations. So obviously this year was Mexico City, the year before was in Athens, Greece. So obviously a little bit more expensive to get to, but really cool places to to visit. So definitely appreciate you guys coming on the show. And and like I said, given our listeners kind of an inside look of what we talk about when we come back from these events and compare notes. So definitely appreciate your guys time today. You bet.
Christy (00:17:02) - Thanks, Jamie.
outro (00:17:04) - Enjoy this podcast. Visit our website summitCPA.Net to get more tips and strategy for achieving business success. We're here to be a resource in this ever changing industry.