Introduction & Forward
By William Murphy
I recently attended “QuickBooks Connect.” It was the first time I had been among members of the QuickBooks community since 2018, so I was able to see a lot of old, familiar faces.
While there, Intuit hosted a reception for Key Accountant Partners in which it celebrated members of the Top 100 ProAdvisors and 25-year members of the ProAdvisor Program. One of the ProAdvisors attending the reception was Matt Fulton. I had previously never met Matt in person.
In 2021, ADP asked Matt to participate in a webinar it was conducting as part of its sponsorship of Insightful Accountant’s Top 100 ProAdvisor awards. I was serving as the host of that webinar.
The webinar—”Secrets to Becoming a Top 100 ProAdvisor”—sought to answer the ongoing question, “What does it take to become a Top 100 ProAdvisor?”
Countless ProAdvisors ask themselves this question each year. Even members of the Top 100 ask the same question wondering what they did to make the ranks of the Top 100.
Seeing Matt recently reminded me of the outstanding article he wrote in preparation for that webinar. There is no better way to begin Insightful Accountant’s 2023 Top 100 ProAdvisor Nomination Process than by revisiting Matt’s article, which I will introduce below precisely as I did back then.
In 1979, Tom Wolfe’s novel, “The Right Stuff”1 told the story of the early US race to space, including Project Mercury. But the Right Stuff did more than that. Both the novel and the Ladd Company film (released in 1983)2 returned Americans to the days of those proud moments of accomplishments, which reminded us that there were people who could be special—the best of the best—and that they could stand out because of their accomplishments.
The first seven individuals in Project Mercury truly had the “Right Stuff” because they shared common traits and set the standard for the American astronaut program.
Whereas the underlying qualities of the Right Stuff were unspoken, Matt Fulton has narrated a collection of traits that reflect, in the same way, qualities everyone who aspires to the ranks of Top 100 should strive to attain. These are not only traits measurable in the Top 100 of past years, but will hopefully remain true among the Top 100 in the years to come.
Traits of a Top 100 ProAdvisor
By Matt Fulton
A Strong Work Ethic
“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” ― Ann Landers
A strong work ethic is often confused by a time-sheet or a pay-check; they are not the same. Work ethic is the commitment to quality of performance and accomplishing your goals.
As a small business owner, your journey will almost always begin with countless hours and a small paycheck. It will be your work ethic that will drive you toward achieving your goals. A strong work ethic will help you build a ladder to climb over what might seem like a dead-end to others.
The Desire to Learn
Acquire new knowledge whilst thinking over the old, and you may become a teacher of others. — Confucius
As a business owner, you will be required to wear many different hats all at the same time, regardless of any prior experience that you may or may not have. When faced with such a challenge, you have two choices: You either learn how to do it or you hire someone who can do it for you.
One of the best parts about being a small business owner is the continuous learning curve. It is this thirst for knowledge that motivates a person to research new topics and learn new skills.
This has been fundamental throughout my career, especially in the accounting industry. When I began working as a bookkeeper, I discovered very quickly that I had “a lot” to learn. Fortunately, I had YouTube. It was my love of learning that fueled my search for the perfect app stack (aka The Holy Grail) and fundamentally led to my specialty in workflow design.
Without an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, I do not believe I would be where I am today.
A Willingness to Teach
The mediocre teacher tells; the good teacher explains; the superior teacher demonstrates; the great teacher inspires. — William Arthur Ward
Sharing and discussing your knowledge with others provides you an opportunity to validate the timeliness and accuracy of your ideas. As a presenter and content creator, I appreciate having the opportunity to share my ideas with our community and recognize the trust offered by those who engage.
Initially, such a responsibility scared me until I learned to say, “I don’t know but let me find out for you.” Teachers are not expected to have all the answers, but they should always clarify the difference between facts and opinion.
Sometimes, the opportunity to share your knowledge with others becomes the catalyst for deeper knowledge. Ironically, it has usually been through speaking opportunities that I truly grasp an understanding of the topic being discussed. As they often say, “Those who teach learn the most,” and there is no better feeling than knowing the information you shared helped someone else.
Adaptable to Change
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” — Stephen Hawking
The only thing that is constant about life is that it is always changing. Often, the most difficult part about accepting change is the ability to accept your method may not help you accomplish your goal. Those who remain open to new ideas and test out new methods will find it much easier to adapt as their chosen profession evolves.
The accounting profession is a perfect example of an ever changing industry that requires its professionals to be able to consistently pivot. Over the past five years, desktop software has become cloud based subscriptions; software companies are becoming service providers and a global pandemic has changed in person to virtual.
Sometimes, change can occur slowly, and other times it can change in an instant.
In a world of “fail quickly,” I believe you never truly fail until you give up. Learn from each lesson and use that knowledge to adapt and evolve.
The Wisdom of Humility
“Wisdom is equal parts experience and reflection.” — Aristotle
Not too long ago, business owners believed they had to hoard their knowledge to ensure a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, this mentality made it difficult for struggling business owners to ask for help from people who knew their industry.
Thanks to social media, it has never been easier to connect with other like-minded people to look for guidance. Unfortunately, it requires us to determine what is fact or fiction.
As a mentor, people always hope you will share your secret sauce for success, but it is our responsibility to also share the challenges we experienced along our journey. It can be very difficult to admit the mistakes you made along the way, but it is through that humility true wisdom is gained.
Remember, it is easy to forget what we had to learn.
Becoming a Top 100 ProAdvisor
The order of these traits may seem accidental, but they are not. Without a strong work ethic, a person is far less likely to have that desire to learn or to reach for more experience in life. Only through experience are we able to obtain personal knowledge.
Unfortunately, knowledge is tricky and can lead you down a blind path if you do not consistently test the validity of it. The best way to test knowledge is to discuss or share your experiences with others.
In other words, we teach by sharing the knowledge gained through experience.
Before we can truly validate our experiences, we must be able to accept a change of opinion if the knowledge proves to be incomplete.
It is through humility that we adapt to these changes and transform the knowledge from our experiences into the wisdom shared with others.
Whether you have mastered all five traits or are still working on your “10,000 hours” to become the next Top ProAdvisor, you cannot accomplish your goal without throwing your hat into the ring.
1 – The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe, 1979, Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
2 – The Right Stuff (film), 1983, Produced by The Ladd Company, Distributed by Warner Brothers.
Article feature (headline) image adapted from ‘Official NASA photo: Project Mercury 7 Astronauts’ at introductory press conference held April 9, 1959.
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