Blowing in the Wind

Do you feel the winds of change blowing? Do you feel the impact of the cloud on your life? If not yet, you soon will. When I founded my first company PayCycle, I thought the web was all about anytime, anywhere access.

We were the first payroll solution on the web and as a result we built a great business. But I was so wrong. The web, at its core, is all about collaboration.

Just look around your personal life. How many friends do you have today that you never knew you had? Can you keep up with all the LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare activity? Probably not, and that is because we are social animals that like to share. We love to share what we ate for dinner, where we are going on vacation, who we know and what we are thinking about. But all of that is about us collaborating as individuals in the consumer market. What about the business arena?

I believe businesses follow consumers and that as you get comfortable with all the collaboration at home, you and your clients will look for Web-based tools to collaborate around your business, too. The primary reason is that it makes your business life more efficient. It provides you information you didn’t have to find to make decisions and it provides it much faster than you could ever get in the manual world.

You only have to look to the Middle East to see the power of the web. The democratization of information has empowered citizens and toppled governments. Sharing your voice, collaborating with people that share your views, and learning from others that don’t makes us all more informed. So while we are all adapting to the power of this collaboration in different degrees, you cannot deny that it is changing the political landscape all over the world.

And it will change the way you do business. I conduct business on the cloud every day and know that it has changed everything. Your smart phone is not that interesting without the underlying architecture of collaboration that the cloud enables. Staying connected to friends, family and co-workers is a fundamental form of collaboration. And yet more is coming.

Tech companies like Bill.com are racing to create the solutions you need to collaborate and transact with clients, employees, vendors, customers and more. Most of my career has been focused in payments and finance efficiency, and I have never seen more start-ups in both categories than I do today.

One example that comes to mind is document management. Two of the highest valued companies in Silicon Valley these days are DropBox and Box.com. Both are probably valued in the billions and are growing extremely fast. And yet, there are many more in the document management space: Memeo, Simplicity and Sugarsync to name a few.

In the finance/payments space, there is of course Square, probably the highest valued start-up in the Bay Area but again there are a host of others. Some are focused on tablet registers, others on expense management, some on accounting and services like accounts payable automation and others on lending to small businesses.

The common theme with all of these start-ups is collaboration. Sharing documents and money is at the core of any business relationship. It is what makes up the transaction. The accounting systems of old have helped us track the transaction but they have failed to complete the entire process. The web is changing that. Whether it is an expense report or a contract or an invoice or a loan application, content is required to transact. And that is where the web and the power of the cloud is at your disposal. Forget sending paper bills; online invoicing is taking the pain and inefficiency out of billing.

As someone who has been starting companies for over 20 years, I see the pace of innovation moving faster than ever before. And while that means adapting and learning have to become core competencies for each of us, it also means solutions that will rock your world are coming your way.

So put on Bob Dylan’s “Blowin in the Wind” and start your own revolution with your firm and your clients. You’ll be happy you did.

 

Mr. Lacerte is CEO and founder of Bill.com and the former CEO and co-founder of PayCycle. As a third-generation entrepreneur building solutions for accountants, he is uniquely qualified to bring insights from an entrepreneur’s and accountant’s perspective. He can be contacted at rene.lacerte@CPAPracticeAdvisor.com.

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