Confidence on Display at QuickBooks Connect

QuickBooks Connect wraps up today, bringing in thousands of accountants, financial services folks, businesses owners and more to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Featuring a lineup of payments experts as well as entrepreneurial champions, the conference sought to offer a balance between networking, workshopping and new innovations for QuickBooks software.

Kicking off the main stage keynote was Intuit Canada president Jeff Cates. He introduced the new updates coming to QuickBooks in the near future and spoke on his mission for users, underlining his goal to put power and time back into the hands of small business owners by developing solutions that manage the minutia of accounting, taxes and payroll management.

Techvibes caught up with Cates to dig deeper into what Connect has become and how it has shifted both its size and scope. QuickBooks began bringing people together about six years ago with a small invite-only event called THRIVE, eventually scaling and realizing the need for a larger tax and accounting-focused event. Connect was held in Toronto for the first time last year and it has now secured a place among the city’s largest technology conferences.

“What’s really cool is how we’ve kind of come from a ‘tell me’ year to a ‘show me’ year,” says Cates.

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Jeff Cates on-stage at Connect 2018.

What Cates is referring to is the announcements unveiled last year are now being expanded upon and really unleashed upon a broader scope of QuickBooks users. Last year, QuickBooks Assistant—a smart aid that can answer questions and retrieve data using voice commands—was announced for small-business owners. At Connect this year, Cates announced the assistant is being rolled out to all QuickBooks Online users. In addition, several AI features shown in 2017 are being built-out for 2018 and beyond and powered up for everyday QuickBooks users.

“There are three core customer benefits that all of our products have: saving time, saving money, and offering complete confidence,” says Cates. “Time is arguably the highest-prioritized because we can use tech to automate and save hours. What AI enables us to do is take that to the next level, but the greater power it will have is the ability to bring in more insights to better understand your business.”

This theme was a thread throughout the three-day Connect conference, ending today. A panel of three small-business owners followed Cates’ keynote by sharing stories of personal victories as well as failures, all on the path to success. What does a brewing company, a socially-conscious fashion brand, and a toy company designed to promote empathy and failure have in common? They all use QuickBooks to save themselves some time and money that can better be used to scale a business.

Small business owners on-stage at Connect 2018.

No tech conference is complete without a celebrity guest, and Connect is no different. Personalities such as singer/songwriter Jann Arden hit the stage, as well as Olympic gold medallist Jon Montgomery and TV host and businessman Scott McGillivray. The speakers all told tales of building their personal brand and overcoming hardships, tying it back into the theme of growth and inspiration.

“Good things come out of bad things,” Arden told an audience of thousands, going on to say “If they’re telling us no, we’re on the right track.”

Beyond the Main Stage

Connect also offered a space for payments experts, small business owners, and everyone in-between to network and meet others in a similar boat. Various partners within the QuickBooks ecosystem were on display as well. Canadian companies such as Plooto and were on-hand, talking with attendees about integration and business scaling. The Intuit-owned TSheets was also present, breaking down better ways to use the platform to really master QuickBooks itself.

“Connect is about facilitating connections that matter, while also giving space to talk about what we’re doing around helping solve problems using technology, and then opening up enough space for our app partners and others to help tell their story,” says Cates.

One of Cates’ favourite highlights of Connect is the rapid prototyping section. Attendees have a chance to really shape how QuickBooks is used by offering real-time opinions to software upgrades, all without even seeing a functioning computer screen. The attendees can share suggestions and QuickBooks employees will amend a screen or app to see if it’s an improvement. If enough people agree, it may have a real shot at making it into the live platform. This sort of “live UI/UX testing” is what excites Cates most when it comes to bringing thousands of QuickBooks users together.

As the event wrapped up, Scott McGillivray offered attendees one last piece of advice.

“Don’t let starting be the thing that stops you,” he said.

To the hundreds of business owners in attendance, McGillivray offered reassurance that they were on the right path. To the others looking on who might soon start a business or who are otherwise focused on growth, it reminded them to keep pushing and take a chance when they need to. QuickBooks will focus on the money, taxes, invoices and payroll—entrepreneurs need only to continue honing in on their vision.

As Cates said in his keynote, “Our goal is to champion the small businesses that dare to dream.”

Techvibes is the official Media Partner of Intuit Quickbooks Connect.