Every year I spend thousands of dollars and lose billable time so I can travel to at least a few conferences. Some of them are huge events. Others are smaller “cozy” gatherings. However, most freelance bookkeepers won't do this. Heck, most CPAs at multi-partner firms don't either!
So this begs the question, why would I spend so much time and money, especially as a freelance bookkeeper, to attend these events? Is there something I know that the majority of accountants and bookkeepers don't?
Well, yes and no.
To state it plainly, the reason the vast majority of our colleagues don't attend these events is because they are short sighted. At least that's my experience. They focus on the “cost” and not the payoff.
What are the “Costs”?
To go to one of these national events (such as Scaling New Heights – which starts next week) you have to pay for your conference fee (several hundred dollars), airfare, hotel, and at least some meals and incidentals. Realistically, after everything is said and done, your investment adds up to a couple thousand dollars, give or take. If you attend more than one conference per year, that gets multiplied.
You also need to adjust your schedule so that your clients are taken care of or work is delayed until your return. That may mean you are taking a financial hit (if you pay someone else to handle your workload) in addition to the above costs.
But I'm glad to do it. You see, this is a wise investment in my business growth rather than a cost or expense. (Although I'm certainly glad that the IRS lets me deduct these “investments” as expenses come tax time.) Here's why I think so.
The Huge Payoff
In my experience, over many years now, attending at least one accounting technology conference each year gives you 5 or more ways to get a hefty return on your investment.
1. Current and Future Technology – Like it or not, our world is changing and bookkeeping is being automated. By knowing what's coming and the opportunities being created, we position ourselves as premium level bookkeepers who won't go obsolete. We also get direct access to the software companies and have input into what they are creating for our profession. It doesn't get more cutting edge than that!
2. Your Skills and Expertise – Conferences provide us with immersion opportunities to get certified in the core software and skills we need to take on the role of true experts and advisers to our clients. Again, that leads to premium level service and fees.
3. Your Business Management – As financial professionals we often neglect our own strategic planning and struggle with key issues such as marketing, workflow, and operations. Our professional conferences bring us case studies and best practices for what our most successful colleagues are doing, making it much easier to shortcut and model what's working for others. That saves a lot time and heartache trying to figure it all out on your own.
4. Support and Community – Many bookkeepers who attend for the first time are surprised at how welcoming our community is. It's hard to describe what it's like, but just today on Facebook, author and thought leader Dawn Fotopulos said to me, “That's why I love the ProAdvisor community so much. They're family.”Â And the family support continues long after the conferences end.
And that leads to…
5. Networking and New Opportunities – This is more valuable than of all the others combined! Nothing beats in-person connections. You get to meet top-notch thought leaders, celebrities and cream-of-the-crop colleagues, some of whom will become your dear friends. It's where amazing opportunities abound that can lead to very lucrative ways to grow your business. But the only way to tap into this is by connecting with the people who come to these conferences. Reach out and connect. Magic will follow…again and again.
How much of a return can you expect? I've heard it said at least THREE TIMES your investment. Using our scenario above, that would be approximately $6,000 for one event! In my own experience, the return is more like FIVE times my investment, and all the fun and excitement you experience in the process are pure gravy.
But to reap that kind of return, you have to be intentional and proactive. Rewards come to those who, upon returning home, take fast action on the plans and connections made during the conference.
So are you ready to give conferences a try?
A Few Recommended Events
Here are some of the events I have or will attend, with this first being the absolute easiest way to get at least a taste of what goes on at the larger conferences.
Scaling New Heights Live Broadcast (free) – June 4-7
It's too late to sign up for the live conference,* which is one of the main QuickBooks-centered events of the year. But you can attend the key main stage sessions with this special streaming option.
Main Stage presentations are live, and pre-recorded content is being streamed in between the live sessions.
* I'll be attending this one on location in Orlando, FL, so look for me in the audience! I'll try to wave to you. 😉
Accountex USA – Boston, MA – September 6-8
A more general large accounting technology conference (not biased toward any single bookkeeping software company). This one used to be known as SleeterCon.
Martin Bissett's – Secrets of Superior Accounting Firms
A more intimate, highly interactive event that utilizes international research and case studies for what's been most effective for the top firms in our profession surrounding marketing, profitability, growth, talent recruitment & retention, technology and succession planning. Three locations in North America this year:
- Philadelphia, PA – Monday, September 11th*
- New York, NY – Wednesday, September 13th
- Toronto, ON – Friday, September 15th
* I've already signed up for this one. So let me know if you're coming too and we'll share a meal together!
ProfitCon 2017 – Profit First Professionals – Morristown, NJ – September 27-30
A medium sized event for accountants, bookkeepers and business coaches who are united in the mission to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty using the Profit First method (and beyond). This is a fun and highly interactive event run by author Mike Michalowicz and Ron Saharyan, founders of Profit First Professionals.
QuickBooks Connect – San Jose, CA – November 15-17
Another of the major QuickBooks-centered events of the year. This one brings together Accountants, Small Business Owners and Software Developers for a huge blow-out event. One of my favorites of the year (and the conference ticket is usually quite reasonably priced too).
There are many, MANY more conferences and events to choose from, literally all over the world. In fact, I'll be attending a couple events overseas this year. Whichever you prefer, whether smaller local events or the huge international events, Google is your friend. A quick search for conferences, roadshows or accounting events will give you plenty to pick from no matter where you're located.
You CAN “Afford” This!
Still worried about the amount of the investment? Don't be. When you plan ahead, it will become nearly “effortless”. First, remember that for events like these, you don't have to pay for everything all at once. You pay for your ticket first, later buy airfare, and book your hotel, but pay for that when you attend the event. It's spread out.
The simplest way to make it easy on your budget (and not go into debt) is to choose an event, and then openÂ a dedicated online bank account like Capital One 360. Then start squirreling away money into that account over time. Make it a game. Save the “spare change” you might not realize you have. You can also set an automatic transfer to your new Conference Fund account for say $40 per week (less than ONE hour of your billable time!) to make saving for your conference investment a set-it-and-forget-it habit.
If you do this, I guarantee you will have enough money to attend at least one conference each year. All that's really needed is to make the decision to do it, and then reap the benefits.
So which conference(s) will YOU attend?