The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 36
We are joined by Adam Hale, and Pete Potsos, Strategic Account Manager & Client Accounting Services Strategic Advisor at Bill.com to talk about how businesses use Bill.com to simplify payments and how its features have impacted our processes and made a positive change in our workflow at Summit CPA Group.
Gone are the days when you had to look at two or more places to get things done. Bill.com enables you to pay, get paid, and manage your payments process from one place.
Jamie Nau: Welcome to today's podcast. I'm really excited about today's guest. It is Pete Potsos, from Bill.com. This is a company that we've been working with, feels like forever. I'm guessing it's one of the really first vendors we got connected with. So this is a podcast that's been a long time coming, and excited to really dig in. But before we dig into Pete, welcome to the show. I'd love to hear a little bit more about your background and kind of how you got to Bill.com.
Pete Potsos: Wonderful. Well, thank you very much for having me. I've been watching some of the past episodes and you guys have been doing a great job. So it's an honor to be here and to talk a bit. I'm a CPA. A recovering CPA. Started out in Detroit at Coopers Lybrand office and I did some internal audit, and I got into sales and then I did a dotcom for others, and then I did my own dotcom. Then when everything kind of burst and know dotcom was a four letter word, I went into the technology accounting space and landed a company called, Thomson Reuters. It was creative solutions back then. So since 2001, I've been working with accounting firms and I've learned a ton from some of the biggest firms. In that time, it was more like not big, but firms like you. That just knew what they were doing. So it was great to kind of learn from those that got it and then share that with smaller firms that were just getting going. Then someone told me, hey, you know so much you should get into your own firm. I did that for a moment and then got pulled back into the accounting space, and I started working with CPA.com. CPA.com, this was around 2011, was helping firms get into cloud based accounting services and using best of breed technology. So we were sort of a reseller, if you will, of tax agents now and Bill.com. We were trying to help people get into the space. In the early days, Adam, we've had this conversation before. It wasn't so much about selling the technology. It was more about making people feel comfortable about being in the cloud. We were like more like cloud psychologists back then.
Adam Hale: Yeah, us too.
Pete Potsos: Then you know, Bill.com was sort of like the killer app. When I think back to my accounting classes, we learned Excel, and some tools that you needed to be an accountant. This I think is a tool that it's kind of essential. It's like the, you know, the entry gateway into cloud accounting services. Then over the years just been working with firms that have grown, that have been acquired, that have acquired other firms. I came to work directly for Bill.com almost four years ago. Now I work with some of the larger partners here at bill.com
Adam Hale: What he's saying is he no longer works with us. He's reserved for the big dogs.
All: Laughing [in audible]
Adam Hale: Yeah, we have known each other for a long time. You've been a great resource for us. I remember the days of, we were pretty high tech whenever we started getting the special ink. Where we could print our own checks. So we would get big blank stock of checks, and we'd print our own checks whenever we would runout and think, oh, this is great. You go into this like locked filing cabinet and there'd be all this stock of client checks. What a disaster and potential disaster. Anyway, you have a bunch of checks, and then you'd have the electronic signature your client just stamp on the things. And yeah, it was really cool whenever banks allowed you to start ACH stuff. Then it became super inefficient because we were like, we got to put it over here. I remember arguing, like we had this argument internally, people are like, this is so much double work. Like we don't want to do this electronic way. Then when bill.com came out, that argument went away. We were like look, you only have to do it in one place. It all takes care of it from there. That was revolutionary for us.
Pete Potsos: Yeah, and that was the beauty of it, because it really starts with the transactions and capturing those transactions, and why not get it before that even happens, right? If you can get that bill into the workflow and digitized, then that's half the battle that most firms are dealing with. You know, you're chasing them down for stuff now. Now you're getting in before it's even paid. Now you can be a part of the process in making that part of the workflow, to make sure it's done properly. Then if they're super busy and, you know, they need some help you can create controls where they didn't exist before. They teach you this in accounting, you know, segregation of duties you're going to have three different people doing everything. But that's not the case in most small businesses. Where you find businesses that get in trouble lose money, it's when one person in the office has been doing everything and then they go on vacation and you find out oh. There’s three hundred thousand dollars missing.
Adam Hale: I'll tell you one thing that I thought was huge for us too. This was like uber obnoxious. We used to have these like tubs for all of our clients, all their records, right? And we were paperless, so paperless used to be kind of a joke because all it meant was you had more paper because you just shredded a ton of stuff and then you were constantly printing. It was just paper over paper, which was kind of obnoxious. But it was one of those things too, where I remember right before where we were scanning everything, it was always hell trying to find the documents. Either people would take stuff out of folders and you'd never find it. Whenever we started to go paperless, people would scan it, but then you didn't understand their hierarchy or, you know, you'd tell them, do it Alpha, do it by vendor, do it by whatever. Then it would get mixed and matched. Whenever Bill.com came along and we were actually indexing our own documents, then even for clients that we weren't doing bill paid for, we were like, look like this is the way to go. You need to do this because now you've got an electronic filing cabinet where you've already done the work to index every single one of your things and you can look at it all these different ways, which was amazing.
Pete Potsos: Yeah, you're taking me way back because I've had numerous conversations about the filing structure, how to name everything. I mean, it's just a logical thing that just sorts with the vendor, attaches itself to the bills so you can find it in multiple ways via the tagging. Paper clearly is a boat anchor. I think now we've found out with the pandemic the past year that it's been the biggest hurdle for a lot of people. They'll get calls from their clients saying, thank god you put me on to this, because if we hadn't listened to you, they just shut down our whole office building. We can't go into the office building. The postal system obstacles with all these deliveries coming, and then just during the election, the slowdown during that time, live checks are not getting opened and deposited. People don't want to go into the office and touch the mail. So, you know, getting rid of paper is the first thing you got to do. It’s one of the things that we're trying to do as well, is like okay. It's in the workflow, but let's get rid of the actual paper check. That's one of our biggest things that we're working on doing.
Jamie Nau: Prior to coming to Summit I worked for a couple Fortune, 5000 companies, billion dollars of revenue. I can tell you when I made this shift, it was amazing to me how bill.com really has small businesses keeping up with those large companies. Some of the tools that they were using were pretty cool, but super expensive and still had a lot of people in there involved in the process. When I came to Summit I was like, oh wow. This Bill.com pretty much provides almost everything that these large companies are using ten times the cost. It does it for a small business. I think that's the big advantage. That was something I really noticed from my first day at Summit and with Bill.com.
Pete Potsos: Yeah, absolutely. It's an enabler. It just takes you to a different level. And now, you talk about the intelligent back office. Some of the terminology. Our CEO recently started saying the office is in your back pocket. The office is now in your back pocket. Now it's on mobile and you know, you can do anything from anywhere. Pandemic aside, this podcast video will hopefully will be around beyond this. Now you can do anything anywhere, and with everyone's kind of mindset changing, I think you'll see more and more of that. Where we will be doing business from your back pocket anywhere.
Adam Hale: Some of the features that we like, one I like the security aspect of it. Like you said, getting the paper out of the mix. I used to brag about how they get a copy of the bill with it too, because whenever we do that, we forget to send remittances. So they would get that in the paper check. But I like now that whenever I go to set up all my vendors they're all invited to put their bank information in. But I don't have to deal with their bank information, you know what I mean? They are doing that and managing it. So there's a security component. I'm not transferring that stuff back and forth. Clients love it because they're getting it. The vendors love it because they're getting their money faster. They get the all the notifications and then we get to save money because you're saving money, not having to print it and touch stuff. So that part of it was slick. Another big feature that helped us out tremendously. The world is getting smaller and allowing for international ACH not having to deal with just that part of the bank website, the money management part of bank websites is uber obnoxious. I mean, you know, some better than others, but you're walking around with kiosks for a kiosk, and then you need a code and six seconds. It is just obnoxious. You got to learn all these new platforms because you can't really mandate a bank to a client, because they're in different regions of the country. But in having Bill.com from an efficiency standpoint, we're all working off of the same platform. I know Jamie is a process guy, so I know that's near and dear to his heart too.
Jamie Nau: Definitely.
Pete Potsos: So control, you know, security is like top of mind for people. We were talking earlier about the largest, 80 of the top 100 firms. I assure you that these firms are constantly making sure that we have the security protocol. I had a firm send me a 300 line spreadsheet to fill out with all these questions about the security. I kind of laughed. I'm like, wait a minute, you guys did our audit. You know more about the security environment than us. But that's really, really essential to people. Then like you were saying about the vendor invitations and having them fill in the information, we are doing things now where we're even going to make that even easier for you. You know, we're calling it funded invite. So like, it'll go to the vendor, they'll get their notice and say hey, there's something coming to you. If you want you can get this electronically. You just have to enter your bank information. Then if they do it right away, that money will convert into an E-payment and they'll get it faster rather than waiting for the check. So that's something that we're doing. The other thing is our intelligent virtual assistant or IVA, is when the document comes into the inbox it's looking at it and it's looking at doing some prefill of the information, which you've probably seen. But it's also looking to see oh. It's an international payment because the ID numbers on here. Do you want to use this information? Then we're sending in enabling international vendors to do that themselves because they know better how to get paid than you know how to get paid. So why not let them let do that? So lots, lots going on there.
Adam Hale: Yeah the AI component is going to be huge, just being able to read it. Even if it's not perfect, the idea is we turn our people into reviewers instead of data enters. It's already doing the data entry for us, then we can catch the errors. We don't need a second layer of people to catch errors which is pretty cool.
Jamie Nau: I feel like this is an area where technology just continues to grow. Every time I talk to someone like Pete, or I listen to a podcast on it I am always surprised where they are going to take a product or service. It's constantly moving forward. It really is a fun industry to be in.
Pete Potsos: Yeah, I was just on a call earlier today. We were talking about some new stuff that's coming, and I said that's great. So now the moment you release that they're going to want it even better and bigger. But yeah, it's constantly moving forward. You hear all the time, so and so's thinking about adding payments, or this other company added payments. People will ask me at a show, it's like, what do you think about that? I'm like first of all, whenever they announce something, it normally takes them three years just to even get it started. Then once they do, I mean, we're already fourteen years ahead. Really, it's not about hey, you can do it. There's so much around it. Where I spend a lot of time is getting people to feel comfortable about it. When they start making payments electronically for the first time and they make a mistake, who's going to talk them off the ledge? So you hear about companies being efficient. The last thing you want is to be working with someone who's efficient. You want someone that's got, you know, a person on the other end. If you're from the Midwest, after the Bell breakup and Ameritech was the company they had a tag line that says, in a world of technology, people make the difference. Having the people behind it, I mean, we're up to almost 400 employees now, supporting all of our partners and developers, engineers, the risk operations people, customer success. There's a lot of people behind this organization. So as you grow and innovate you better have a whole bunch of people behind it to make sure that no one is trying to misdirect that money and do stuff.
Adam Hale: Night and day from where you came from, for sure. I mean, it's definitely grown. I know you went public and everything. So who would be kind of a competitor? Not the we are overly promoting them because obviously you're definitely the tool of choice for us. But I mean, what are the other options out there for people and why would they want to go with Bill.com versus another solution?
Pete Potsos: So even going back to 2011, one of the biggest competitor is paper. The fact that people are still using paper, that is ultimately the biggest challenge. Where I spend most of my time is change management, getting people to think differently and do things differently. There are still people that want to print the checks and literally someone signs them and they must like the smell of the paper. So that's probably number one. Early days it was the banks and having bill pay there. In many cases now that's Bill.com, or powered by Bill.com or whatever. So you might even look at that and say, they want to use this or that. In that area I'm like, fine, you know, if they're going to do that. The client is going to do that, they're going to use a banking tool, unless there's ways to had to add extra users and give them specific permissions, do you really want an employee having access to your bank account after they just asked you for a raise and you said no?
All: Laughing [in audible]
Pete Potsos: Event in that case where there are extra users, some of the limitations are in the API, right? You might have a tool that you want to feed in on the front end, or maybe you're using something else like earth class mail or whatever, we have all these APIs that have been pre built and partnerships that feed into the Bill.com solution. In the other cases it's kind of locked down and, you know, for security reasons on their part. So they won't let you interface those tools. The other thing is that you really want to have control of who you know and visibility into which of your staff are on there. When they depart and go to another place, or retire you don't want them to still have access to various accounts. When you're in various different tools, if you've got your staff in there and don't have visibility, that's a potential exposure for you. Especially if they didn't voluntarily go. They might have a grudge. So you want know who is accessing those accounts. Having a console and being able to see where everyone is important. Then an audit trail. There are other solutions out there that are inside the Intuit platform now. We were there at one point. There’s some solutions out there that are free that are throwing on an extra oh, we're doing bill pay now. Which is fine. If it were just about moving money it's not. We really have three things that we do, and it's the inbox. Being able to capture the information and having a single place for all that information. The workflow, having the different appropriate people and the approvals, the controls, the security, the permission, the approval types, the policies, all of that. Then it’s the payment and the different security around that. So when someone says, we're doing this for free now. There's nothing for free, right? I used to sell payroll, but tax software. There was a company that had all you can eat. You pay one price, you get every tax form possible. Well okay. They might do electronic refunds really, really good, you know, and that's like their bread and butter. But like when you needed an Oklahoma 1041 return, and you want to make sure it's right because this is like a million dollar client of yours, you need that thing to be right. When people are just bundling stuff in and throwing it in, there's no real attention to that. That's some of the challenges. Where you're using it as a loss leader just to grow business elsewhere.
Adam Hale: I find that to be true in almost all software. We talk about it all the time. It's better to be best in breed. Everybody's looking for that one software that will do everything from A to Z. But like you said, they're really good at one aspect of it. That's where they spend all their R&D time, and they're like oh yeah. I need an accounting platform. So they just start adding stuff on without really comparing themselves. Of course, they're not going to be an Intuit. QuickBooks has been mastering that for years. You all focus on Bill.com which is kind of, just a quick pivot. We also use bill.com for invoicing some clients as well. Can you talk a little bit about how that evolved or how it works?
Pete Potsos: So in a business network there's always two sides to a transaction. You've got the accounts payable and then on the other and the receivables. So just the natural connections that are happening. We were talking about my Bill.com swag. I'm always wearing a Bill.com logo. I think when we first started we were golfing at a sales kick off, and some guy hit it on to our side of the fairway and he saw the bill.com stuff and was like oh, I get paid with Bill.com. In the airport lounges I see people, you know, even back here where I live in Michigan recognize it. So when you pay and you do it electronically, that person on the other end gets a free bill.com receivables account, so they can take their payments. And if they decide that they want to pay bills they can upgrade their accounts and start paying bills as well too. But even for someone that is using bill.com and they now want to do accounts receivable as well. You can do that a million ways, different companies offer that, but what works really nice with us is that we have the ability to set up recurring invoices. If you've got a fixed fee arrangement it’s just set it and forget it. Then it will invoice them. It'll go the method that they want. We mail statements out too. So there's some people that just like to get that annual dues. Like I haven't got my statement from my homeowner's association here yet. So, like, now I got to go log in and figure that out. But like, had it come in paper I probably would have paid it already, right? I do believe in no paper but sometimes it's a good reminder. So we do that. We can do an automatic pull of the funds. We call it auto pay. So the money just comes in and you don't have to trigger anything. You do a setting that says I want to get paid within three days of the due date and it just happens. So that's where that's at. Just an easy way to do that stuff.
Jamie Nau: I think the interesting thing that I've seen from our clients with bill.com, I've been through a lot of onboardings here. A lot of times we recommend different software. Bill.com is one that I've never really heard pushback. Whether it was in the initial stages or where we're taking over AP, and we're moving to the bill.com com and you guys don't have a choice. Like that's the way we're doing it if we're taking over your AP. Or whether a client isn't even using us for that service, and we kind of do a process documentation where we are say what you guys are doing is completely inefficient. Here's how you should be doing it and using Bill.com. I think you guys definitely have that edge in the processes you set up, in the way things work, it's really user friendly and we've been able to walk our clients through that pretty easily. Real quick here I want to throw our email address out there so that listeners can reach out to us. That email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. So we have a couple minutes left. Pete, will let you share final thoughts and how to reach out to you.
Pete Potsos: Yeah well, first of all, thank you very much. It's been great to be here and be part of the guest lineup that you've been pulling together. Really honored and appreciate that. I've known Jody and Adam for a long time. Glad to meet you as well, Jamie. I would say that right now you have an opportunity to digitally transform your client's life. We've all been impacted. I don't think anything's really going to change. They're going to want to see things and tools that make them work more efficiently and effectively. Having something like bill.com is one of the first things you can do to make their life better. It's not just about providing financial information you want. At the end of the day, clients just want to know how to pay as few taxes as possible. They want to spend more time with their kids and they want more money in the bank. If you can reduce the friction and get rid of paper, that's like one of the first things you can do to make their lives better, and help them realize one of those three things above. As far as getting hold of me, I think the easiest thing is, I am on Twitter at PetePotsosCPA. I'm on LinkedIn as well. You can connect with me there and you'll get right into my email here at Bill.com. But I'd love to hear from people on Twitter. We'll be tweeting about this conversation too. So we'll look for you there.
Jamie Nau: Great. I appreciate your time. Adam, any final thoughts? I know Bill.com was well established before I even started at Summit. I think that was five years ago now. Any other thoughts on the bill.com that you want our listeners to know?
Adam Hale: Yeah, it's just a no brainer. I mean, if you're looking for best in breed, it's the one and only out there for this kind of a service. It brings a lot of legitimacy to your organization and what you do, security, all of that kind of stuff bundled in one. So if you're looking for best of breed and to make your life easy and your client's life easier, there's really no other choice. Bill.com is what we've used for years and will continue to use.
Pete Potsos: We appreciate that.
Jamie Nau: Awesome. Thanks Adam and Pete.
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