Firm of the Future Profile: Chad Ridner

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I recently sat down with Chad Ridner, entrepreneur and president of Two Roads, the 2015 Firm of the Future winner, to get to know more about him and his firm, and his plans for 2016.

Scott Cytron: What is your firm’s number one goal for 2016 and do you plan to achieve it?

Chad Ridner: Growth. We have spent an extraordinary amount of time this year putting in the infrastructure in digitizing operations so that we have the ability to onboard multiple clients (we call them partners) per week. It includes a website overhaul, a sales process that encompasses a digital presentation and signatures, a digital onboarding process, and hiring new people. Now that we have this process in place, we are positioned to bring on new partners quickly, particularly in the first quarter when a lot of business owners recognize they need help and want to start off the New Year on the right foot. While these systems have created new efficiencies, we actually believe it helps us serve our “partners” better and deliver a higher quality of service.

SC: Will your technology “spend” increase for 2016, stay the same or decrease? Explain why.

CR: That’s a good question. I’d say it will definitely increase, but that has more to do with technology being a COGS (Cost of goods sold) and tied to revenue. We anticipate growing quite a bit, so our technology costs will increase overall, but decrease as a percentage of the budget. We are constantly evaluating new technology too because we want to stay ahead of the curve. Just the investment of time is a significant expense, yet very essential. We spend time each week vetting new technology so that we can provide the best service possible and create efficiencies for our team and partners.

SC: How has the cloud changed the way you offer tax planning and prep services?

CR: The cloud creates incredible efficiencies. We can exchange info without having to pick up or drop off files, and we offer digital signature that allows business owners to make the most of their time. Because of the cloud, this information can also be exchanged securely. The cloud also increases collaboration between the bookkeeper and CPA; you’re able to work real-time without having to wait on either party. Plus, you don’t have to log in and out of servers.

SC: Is your firm seeing client more prepared to file for TY2015 or less prepared?

CR: More prepared, actually. When you are working with clients throughout the year, you have a “running start” so that both the preparer and the client are far more informed than if you only touched base during tax season. More prepared, but still not happy to pay the tax man!

Now, if the client didn’t work with us during 2015 but hired us after January 1, we’ve got a lot of catching up to do … but come next year, we’ll have them in good shape.

SC: How does your firm benefit from participating in social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and also blogs)?

CR: Honestly, I still feel like we’re just learning how to utilize social media in our practice. But, I’d say that’s true for many in our profession. One of the biggest gains from our participation in social media is the relationship we’re developing with peers. Like never before, it’s quite easy to identify people through social media who have similar firms all over the country. You can engage these folks and learn a lot from each other.

In a lot of ways, you’re actually more inclined to develop peer-to-peer relationships because you aren’t talking to the competitor down the street. We’ve learned so much from other people who have similar objectives and goals. In our profession, I believe if one of us wins, we all win. Collaboration is key because if we’re able to help the business community to a greater extent, the economy improves and jobs are created (the list goes on and on).

SC: How has life changed since you won Firm of the Future?

CR: My hair has started to grow back, all my problems have vanished and I landed the girl of my dreams. Ok, well I lucked out with her 13 years ago. Seriously, it’s been a blast. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of being a “Firm of the Future,” Intuit® is just a great partner to have. Yes – because of the competition, we are more well known nationally – but we have found Intuit to be filled with people who really care about our profession and are genuinely passionate about helping us succeed. Getting the chance to meet and interact with more of the Intuit team has absolutely been one of the highlights of winning the FOTF. Knowing that they are working on new tools to help us be more successful is really encouraging as well, and I think 2016 is going to be a big year for us in the accounting world.

SC: What is your advice to accountants who are hesitant to work in the cloud?

CR: Well first, I understand the hesitation. Changing anything is scary. Who wants to give up a “known” for a seemingly “unknown,” especially if it could mean a loss of revenue, or a loss of a client?

What we’ve tried to first do is to literally list out the pros and cons of, for example, QuickBooks® Desktop vs. QuickBooks Online. Secondly, if we were to move to QBO, we list out how would it actually benefit our clients and our team members. What are the drawbacks? We have found that writing down this information really helps flesh out legitimate concerns, versus perceptions that may not always be true. Once you decide to move to the cloud, start small. Pick one of your clients who is a “lifer” and tell them what you’re wanting to try. They’re already a fan of yours and want to see you succeed. Move them to the cloud and test the experience, both for your team as well as the client. Make adjustments where necessary, and then slowly add on new clients. Over time, I think you might begin to see the benefits of the cloud and be excited about fully making the transition.

SC: If you were stranded on a desert island with access to only ONE kind of technology, what would it be and why?

CR: 3D Food Printer. I have no farming or gardening skills, and I’d get tired of only eating fish.

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