The Power of Small Business and Artificial Intelligence

Intuit is empowering every entrepreneur by democratizing AI and making the QuickBooks platform more accessible than ever.

As Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect conference wrapped up this week, headliner Chris Hadfield shared a comforting piece of advice: “Impossible things happen all the time.” Hadfield should know, considering his journey from young rural Ontario kid to first Canadian commander of the International Space Station. 

Hadfield’s message echoed across the main stage, reflecting upon the different speakers and platform updates Intuit highlighted. The conference was centered around Owning the Future, and Hadfield spoke inspiringly about what it takes to get there. Focusing on the future, Intuit announced a brand-new country manager, David Marquis, who will be leading the Canadian team in the new year.

Main stage highlights

All kinds of attendees took part in the QuickBooks Connect festivities on day two, from seasoned business owners to born-in-the-cloud accountants and everything in between. Among product announcements featuring AI-driven upgrades and workshops driving home what it means to successfully scale a business, different celebrities took to the stage to share their journey. 

The eclectic mix of speakers began with Matt Basile, the founder of food empire Fidel Gastro’s. Speaking candidly about his early work career and struggles to understand where his passion lay, Basile delivered a powerful and emotional message when asked about his recently sold Toronto restaurant. 

Basile’s most insightful thought was about the move from being an agency copywriter to opening up his own shop, and all of the difficult periods associated with making an investment in yourself.

“You have to really listen to advice, but don’t necessarily follow all of it,” Basile said. “You have to be relentless and fearless but incredibly terrified. You have to be Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio at the same time. Know your limitations, but also be comfortable with breaking through those.”

The packed QuickBooks Connect conference floor.

The inspiration kept rolling as concert pianist Jade Simmons took to the stage, delivering her brand of powerful advice mixed with high caliber classical piano performances. Simmons talked about her early days learning piano and how the only way she knew she would get to a successful point in her career was to visualize exactly what she wanted and make it a reality. 

“Know when it is time to let certain things die, then move out of the way and you can get on to being who you were supposed to be and called to do what you were supposed to do,” said Simmons.  

“Remember this. It is time to redefine and re-understand your purpose,” she continued. “Purpose is not the thing you do, but the thing that happens in others when you do what you do. When you understand that, everything begins to shift. You become freed from worrying about what everyone else is thinking.”

Finally, Chris Hadfield closed out the day and spoke about his incredible (and literal) journey to the stars. Echoing Simmons’ words, Hadfield espoused the importance of realizing a goal and working incredibly hard towards it. Sometimes that means changing everything, and sometimes it means reinventing yourself from the ground up. 

“I realized if I want to be an astronaut, I had to start changing deliberately who I was,” said Hadfield. “Impossible things happen all the time because someone had a crazy vision of the future, they made a plan, they changed who they were, and they were willing to fail. But where it takes you—that is the most incredible part.”

Hadfield spoke about what it was like to launch into space, how that completely changed his worldview and called out the current visionaries who are making intergalactic travel a reality. Hadfield noted that almost everything humanity has right now—from smartphones to rockets—was at one point considered impossible.

Innovations at Intuit

Celebrity speakers were not the only people hitting the stage. Intuit executives delivered product and tech trend updates, focusing on the immense impact small businesses have on their surroundings. In fact, 98% of employer businesses in Canada are small businesses—an important stat that illustrates just how valuable and widespread a typical QuickBooks user can be. 

QuickBooks’ new updates focus on empowering professionals to make the most of their time and resources. Obviously, technology such as AI helps a lot when it comes to completing administrative tasks and reducing redundancy. Over the last two years, Intuit featured AI heavily in its upgrades. This year, the goal was to democratize AI even further and make those advances available to every entrepreneur and business owner.

In order to democratize technology and open up the QuickBooks platform to as many different users as possible, it’s important to actually understand those users by engaging in open discussion and asking for feedback.

“We want the customer to be at the centre of the product development roadmap, rather than us making every decision independently,” says Dominic Allon, SVP and GM of Intuit’s international business.

Part of that process involves surveying users and business owners to understand the challenges involved in scaling a company and accessing the best financial tools. A newly-released Intuit Payroll Survey found that nearly 4 in 5 Canadian small business owners plan to grow their business in the next two years, but 85% of them feel held back by a lack of knowledge in the hiring process. The financial tasks involved in hiring new talent is also a major pain point, as 44% of small businesses have had difficulty navigating how to adequately manage payroll.

“It’s that blend of understanding macro trends and remaining open-minded, yes, but what it really means to us is always being rooted in customer need,” says Allon. “That’s where everything comes together. Where we have done a lot of great things and will continue to do so is through work with small businesses and accountants and helping them thrive through these different waves of changes.”

By understanding these difficulties, Intuit can unlock different ways to relieve these pain points and create greater efficiencies for small business owners. In fact, 98% of those who use a payroll software feel confident that payroll is set up correctly, proving the importance of introducing robust platform updates. 

“I never really thought of payroll as a tool to help a small business owner grow their business, but now with all the data that’s available, it’s completely changed my mindset and shown that it can be the differentiator to help an entrepreneur scale,” says Melika Hope, the head of product at QuickBooks Canada. 

Melika Hope on-stage delivering her keynote.

Scaling Intuit innovation

One of the biggest pain points is cash flow. Intuit has focused on this area before, but soon, a new Cash Flow Planner powered by artificial intelligence will help businesses predict their daily cash flow over a 90-day period. Utilizing over 26 billion anonymized data points, the tool proactively alerts business owners when a bump in the road is coming and recommends how to handle the situation. 

In order to manage difficult aspects of business such as cash flow—even when it’s made easier with an AI-powered planner—owners need all the time they can get. Intuit has a few new updates targeted at saving time for QuickBooks users. A Receipt Capture tool allows users to snap a picture and QuickBooks will extract all relevant information to either create a new expense or match an existing one. A new Mileage Tracker allows users to easily input driving data without having to extensively input tax deductions. 

“Imagine—there is the time-saving aspect, but also the room in their head and the headspace that these entrepreneurs can just focus on whatever their business needs instead of administrative work,” says Hope.

In addition to these product updates, Intuit is proving that they are also focused on giving back. One of the most impactful moments of the conference featured a segment detailing the brand-new Intuit Prosperity Hub in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. Intuit is bringing 45 new jobs to the town of 32,000 in the first launch of a nationwide initiative that will spark economic growth in small communities.

“The Prosperity Hubs are a chance to touch people and change their lives for the better,” says Allon. “It’s dozens of new job opportunities, and that’s really powerful. The Hubs are about giving something back to those communities in which we do business. It’s a tangible manifestation of our desire to live up to our mission and to power prosperity around the world.”

Getting business owners started

There’s a reason why 97% of QuickBooks Connect attendees said they walked away from the conference with lessons they can immediately apply to their business. Every small business owner has financial details to consider, which stresses the importance of focusing on their future by taking the time to learn a thing or two from some of the top experts in the field. 

As more updates to Intuit’s platforms roll out, business owners will feel more connected to their clients and consumers. Less time inputting numbers and updating spreadsheets means more time strengthening relationships and growing their business, and those are the things that allow a small business to scale into something great.

Digital is an official media partner of Intuit Quickbooks Connect 2019.