In business, holding steadfast to your original product concept may seem in line with your entrepreneurial mission, but relying on the status quo can quickly turn into complacency in your industry.

My wife and I owned a thriving business, MicroVision Software, which provided professional tax software for accountants. Our initial mission was to help professional accountants complete their tax work more efficiently through desktop software. Our success had been based around innovation; for example, we anticipated the benefits of moving tax software to Windows earlier than most of our competitors, and we (and our loyal customers) reaped the benefits.

That experience taught us a critical lesson. Our company DNA wasn’t about an individual product; it was about connecting innovation to customers. Specifically, we realized that we had a knack for identifying emerging technologies, and then applying those technologies to help professional accountants.

IDENTIFYING GROWTH IN NEW MARKETS

We decided to sell MicroVision and start a new company, AccountantsWorld, because we felt the best opportunities to keep leveraging technology lay on the web, not on the desktop. Once that decision was made, the steps forward came quickly.

We realized that in order to remain competitive and empowered, accountants needed a resource for timely professional information and news. So we created the first web portal exclusively for accountants.

Next, we looked for growth areas for accountants, and honed in on payroll. We noticed most accountants referred their clients to outside payroll providers for their processing needs. Why weren’t they handling this work themselves? Because even though payroll was a billion-dollar opportunity, it required powerful processing centers which only the Goliaths of the industry had been able to afford.

These new advancements in the cloud allowed us to help accountants capitalize on this previously overlooked market opportunity. We developed a cloud-based payroll solution that allowed accountants to expand their offerings to existing clients so they could grow their businesses efficiently and easily.

Throughout many conversations with our customers, one consistent pain point emerged: these highly-trained professionals spent an inordinate amount of their time cleaning up the errors made by their clients. With the emergence of DIY accounting software, many of their small business clients attempted—and failed—to take on their own bookkeeping without the necessary skills or know-how. This both hurt accounting firms’ profitability and created more unnecessary work for their employees. And without the bandwidth to provide strategic financial counsel for their clients, accountants struggled to retain relevancy in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Our response was to develop a cloud-based system for both bookkeeping and professional accounting, which put accountants back in control and fostered true collaboration with their clients.

This pattern of identifying and responding to our customers’ needs continued throughout the years, until we had developed a suite of eight fully-integrated cloud applications. None of these innovations would have been possible if we were not flexible and adaptable in the industry. The common link was innovation in the service of the professionals we knew best.

LESSONS LEARNED

As an entrepreneur, I work to innovate the accounting industry. This relies heavily on understanding both where our industry is headed, and what technology can deliver for our customers.

Additionally, this growth and change would not have been possible without our loyal and talented team, many of whom have been with us for over 15 years. The long-term retention of key employees has ensured continuity of teamwork, coordination and processes. Our mission and values stayed consistent over the years; we remain committed to using technology to help accounting practices thrive.

After the various trials and successes it took to create a thriving, flexible business, my advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is simple: have a passion for what you do and whom you serve. Our passion for helping accountants thrive has seen us through all the challenges we have faced (including many we couldn’t possibly have anticipated in advance).