The accounting profession is filled with amazing people! Accountants are smart (obviously), generous, hard-working (oh-so), and social (who knew?)! And last but not least, they really like to learn.
LivePlan’s 2020 Bootcamp is in the books and it was a tremendous success. We want to share with you what attendees learned and have to say about it. As well as why we teach this very special content and what awaits in 2021 and beyond.
"I learned so much from the Bootcamp and was so excited to get started on the software. The materials we received give me the confidence to go out and sell and deliver this service. I can't wait to start using it with clients!"
~ J. DeFeo
Why we started the LivePlan Bootcamp for Strategic Advising
For many years LivePlan has had the privilege of getting to know the accounting profession — you. We’ve attended conferences, written blogs, hosted webinars, connected with thought leaders, and met many, many customers. And during that time we’ve seen the advisory space go from just a notion about being a “trusted advisor,” to a profession grappling with how to monetize and deliver these services.
During this time, we’ve been inspired by the opportunity to contribute. Within our own staff we have experts on:
- Business process design
- Capacity planning and resource allocation
- Digital marketing
- Monetization and selling
- Lean Planning, financial forecasting, and advisory reporting
- Month-end review and management analysis
On top of this, our customers ask us for intensive LivePlan learning sessions. They want to learn LivePlan more deeply, and we know at the root of their need, is learning how to monetize LivePlan as a service for their clients. In order to deliver any type of new service, there’s a fundamental process of monetization you must do.
If you’ve found yourself trying to launch advisory services recently, do any of these questions sound familiar to you?
- How do you ensure your new service offering is profitable, and scalable, and package it up for sale?
- How do you deliver it efficiently, stay within scope, remain profitable, and upsell when the time is right?
It can feel overwhelming! You went to school for accounting, not necessarily these things.
Then, 2020 became the year of the economic unknown. We saw our small business customers clamoring for forecasting help, and our accounting partners scrambling to provide the service. It became clear to all involved that strategic advising is not just good, it is fundamental to the survival of a business.
At our core, we are a company built on a foundation of educational content. It’s how we’ve operated for 30 years. We bring education and learning to our customers to help them succeed in business. So really, how could we not launch a LivePlan Bootcamp?!
“The LivePlan Bootcamp was jam-packed with great information to set us up to be successful. They thought of everything we would need, and more!”
~ D. Kinsman
How it started
Our online training program was the precursor to Bootcamp. It brings our fundamental strategic advising learning together, in one program. That way anyone offering services using monthly accounting data can learn how to offer strategic advising in a scalable way. Monetize it, deliver it, and be profitable.
With the popularity of the online training, our customers requested a deeper, live event. So in October of 2019, we launched the inaugural LivePlan Bootcamp for Strategic Advising, capped at 20 attendees, for a true MVP (minimum viable product) test.
Over the course of three days, in a live setting, attendees learned:
- lean planning and forecasting
- business process and capacity planning
- strategic advising meeting structure
- marketing and sales
- engagement and leadership
They shared their experiences with us and with one another, had some great wine along the way, toured Palo Alto Software offices, and left with a host of resources, some cool swag, and 15 CPE.
Attendees left saying:
“A jam-packed experience full of valuable information. One of the best “seminars” of my career.” ~ S. Highly
“The Bootcamp was outstanding. The sessions and information were detailed and thorough. I had a choice between this and QB Connect. I chose the Bootcamp. Best decision I could have made!” ~ A. Gilbo
Buoyed from that experience, we were excited for version 2.0! But little did we know what 2020 would have in store.
How it’s going
We spent the majority of 2020 like most of you: going from a few weeks of quarantine in the winter, to a full scale shut down, and indefinite remote work. We helped our kids with online school, we took our very happy dogs on more walks than usual, and our cats were mostly just confused.
We had some time to consider what another Bootcamp experience could be like in a remote world, and what you were all asking to learn. With our deep roots in selling directly to small businesses, we know that small business owners are more aware now than ever before of the need for lean planning and forecasting.
And while survival was their focus earlier in 2019, they are now asking for more. They understand that in order to thrive in uncertainty, they need to forecast for profit as well as cash, and even have a forecasted balance sheet.
With all of this in mind, we knew that Bootcamp still needed to happen in 2020. We did our research on virtual learning platforms and built the fully remote LivePlan Bootcamp 2.0!
In October, the second-ever LivePlan Bootcamp was live, with 3 days of deep learning, 3x more attendance than the first, and a focus on Lean Planning for delivering strategic advising services.
This is what attendees learned at LivePlan’s Bootcamp 2.0
Day One—The Process
- The LivePlan Method for Strategic Advising: Our business process for scalable and profitable advisory.
- Lean Planning: How to do just the right amount of work to deliver the maximum result. And also, how to grow the service over time.
- Real-world examples of lean forecasting: We examined a forecasting process for an example small business—a caterer who was growing by opening a brick and mortar restaurant. We showed how we helped him see his numbers quickly for an investor, how he presented that plan, and what he is doing now for ongoing maintenance.
“I am blown away by the content and level of detail in the processes and checklists.” ~ AM Kellaway
Day 2 — Marketing and Selling
- Bundles for LivePlan strategic advising: A tiered approach to bundled services. Think — platinum, gold, silver, bronze, except we call ours — Maintenance, Insights, Growth, and Performance.
- Engagement letters and pricing: We heard from other accountants doing this work now, what their engagement letters look like, and what they charge.
- Sales and Selling: Our director of sales taught a session on selling services, with an emphasis on the Challenger method of selling.
- Digital marketing: Our in-house marketing team-taught website design best practices to maximize lead generation, how to use Facebook for advertising, and how to manage customer retention. It was about 1 year of college marketing coursework in 2 hours!
“I'm taking away great ideas and inspiration not only in applying the LivePlan method but in marketing my firm, which wasn't even on my radar before Bootcamp.” ~ J. Abella
Day 3 — LivePlan Day!
- Forecasting, forecasting, forecasting: We went DEEP on financial forecasting. We reviewed a sample business with 3 forecast scenarios: original, worst case, and working versions. We learned how and why they were developed, what occurred in the business over the last 18 months, the problems they need to solve now, and the decisions they face during the next few months.
- Small group work: Break-out sessions to work on the forecast, each group developing a scenario to get the business through the next 12 months, profitably and cash flow neutral.
- Reporting and advising: A walkthrough of how LivePlan produces reporting packages, and how to use our advisory meeting agenda and resource guide to prepare for an advising conversation.
- More small group work: Additional break-out sessions focused on preparing a few points of information for an advisory meeting. Even after so much learning, this session was probably the most engaged of all three days. Attendees were excited to see how easy it was to pick a few data points, keep the meeting structured, and provide extremely concrete guidance to customers.
“Such an amazing experience, unlike any education I've had before. This just became my new favorite software!” ~ J. Standley
How the LivePlan Bootcamp prepares you to be a successful strategic advisor
Bootcamp attendees came to us feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the work of advising clients. There are so many possibilities for advice and guidance, and too often meetings devolve into a series of unhelpful conversations.
After learning the LivePlan Method, and how to apply elements of the software, plus our resources and guidance, attendees saw how the work of forecasting and gap analysis exposed the metrics that were most important to discuss. And that strategic advising is more about presenting the facts and asking questions than it is about providing all the answers.
When we see advising in that way, it is no longer overwhelming. It’s also more balanced for the small business owner. It’s what they expect.
“This Bootcamp has allowed my firm to save so much time in creating a strategic advisor practice! So much guidance and so much information!”
~ S. Woodard
At the end of the day, the job of the strategic advisor is to help the small business owner discover what it is in their business that needs to change in order to meet their goals. And without structure, that can be very overwhelming. But it’s really as straightforward as this:
- Goals are tracked and measured with forecasting and gap analysis.
- The gaps expose the places where change is needed.
- And the change is a choice between two things: a change to the goal, or a change to the business in order to meet the goal.
- Determining what that change should be, comes after a conversation with the small business owner, during an advisory meeting.
Much of the magic of strategic advising is simply in holding time and space for a structured conversation to occur.
“Bootcamp exceeded all expectations- A ton of knowledge and very well delivered.” ~ B. Rogoff
We look forward to running future iterations of the LivePlan Bootcamp, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for announcements. We hope to continue with Bootcamp twice a year, in the spring and fall. Accountants need to learn the skills of lean planning, forecasting, reporting, and strategic advising. Your small business clients need it and you are the experts to deliver it!
“A fantastic and informative 3 days of high quality, on-point presentations. I was amazed by how well LivePlan Bootcamp was organized, the insights, and valuable resources provided. Will definitely attend again!” ~ M. Jain
In the meantime, if you want to get started with LivePlan training for strategic advising, consider our online training. It teaches many of the same resources we deliver in the live Bootcamp.
Kathy Gregory has over 20 years of experience in business development, including: financial forecasting, strategic planning, process development, project management, and mergers and acquisitions. She has worked in public and private, small to mid-size organizations doing business development, and strategic planning and implementation, working with executives, boards and their investors. At LivePlan Kathy runs the specialized program for Strategic Advisors. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon.