Darren: You are very close to the accounting profession. What advice would you give a practitioner on positioning their firm for the future?
René: One of the key lessons I’ve learned over the years is that you either lead or you follow. The cloud is a major technology innovation that allows accountants to lead their clients. The cloud supports real-time collaboration and enables firms to position themselves as leaders and strategic advisors, so it’s imperative for accounting professionals to seek out and implement the technology that moves their processes to the cloud.
Darren: You live and work in the heart of Silicon Valley. How does your location impact the strategic direction of Bill.com?
René: Technology moves really fast here. There are so many opportunities to learn from investors, peers, and other companies, and I believe that it gives us a unique advantage. There are many venues to share learning about strategy, technology, and management techniques, so you really absorb a great deal of education by default.
For example, the social nature of many consumer companies definitely influences how we think about collaboration and social at Bill.com. Also, at the core of Silicon Valley, is the belief that failure is not just okay, but it’s a good thing. This means that leaders here take risks, try new ideas, and genuinely enjoy the journey.
This impacts us in many ways. Most obvious to us is in the people we hire. They expect the management team live up to the culture of Silicon Valley. So, we work hard to ensure that we do.
Darren: What’s the biggest challenge you see facing accountants and their firms today?
René: I think the biggest challenge is making the migration from the static, non-collaborative tools to the dynamic, collaborative tools that are readily available. For example, every accountant should have an extremely user-friendly portal to share tax documents with clients.
The tools are out there, but it means switching processes and learning new things. That is always hard. The good news is that companies like Bill.com are focused on making that transition very easy.
Darren: What’s the biggest technology business trend that you see from where you sit?
René: I think the social trend is just getting started. While I don’t spend as much time being “social” as others, I understand the power of it. Social media has become a part of the fabric of society in a very short timeframe.
At Bill.com, we create collaboration with employees, accountants, customers, and vendors. This is, in a way, the social side of business. I believe the value in social collaboration is immense, and we are just seeing the beginning.
Darren: What do you see as the biggest consumer trend?
René: Again, my answer is social. More broadly, I would say that the cloud is creating the democratization of information never imagined before. Social on the consumer level is the democratization of your personal life.
Social on the business level is the democratization of your business life. That means transparency when you want, with whom you want, and how you want.