It was booked back in February 2017. Marlon and I knew that we were going to QuickBooks Connect in San Jose on 15 and 16 November 2017, no matter what it was going to take. Our kids had carers booked 10 months in advance. The flights were confirmed. San Jose, Silicon Valley, here come WhichAddOn.

It’s quite amazing what transpired over the 10 months from our decision to go the United States for the first time and the day we left. Amazon announced it’s launch in Australia by the end of 2017, which we saw happen in just before Christmas last year. QuickBooks grew in Australia at a fast rate, surpassing 100,000 subscribers reflecting an 89% growth in 12 months.

Marlon and I at the PBR World Finals, Las Vegas, Nevada

Marlon and I at the PBR World Finals, Las Vegas, Nevada

This changed our trajectory for 2017. The initial plan was to focus on our core markets of inventory, EDI and retail, focusing on the product, Financials for Office 365, a cloud-based Microsoft product that suits all the businesses coming to us for help that are too big for the Xero and QuickBooks Online (QBO) ecosystem. Our trajectory changed to focus on Amazon, helping product selling businesses with inventory, EDI, retail and e-commerce channels. This was a God-send as we attracted household name clients like Beechworth Honey and New Zealand Natural. You can read their stories over on WhichAddOn.com

Marlon and I sat down to brainstorm how do we make the most of our trip to the United States. Now with me being a massive Professional Bull Riding (PBR) fan, I decided the first stop had to be the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada. We had a ball.

Source: PBR on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pbr/

Source: PBR on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pbr/

Stop 1: Zappos in Las Vegas, Nevada

After a direct flight arriving early morning into Los Angeles, California, we struggled to stay awake in the hotel lobby whilst waiting for our room. We looked like a pair of bobbleheads in the lobby lounge trying to stay awake and failing. It’s been a while since we both had travelled so far! Auckland and Suva were the furthest we had travelled to assist clients and complete add-on integrations with Xero in New Zealand and Fiji. After a good nap and a full tummy (easy to do in America we found out!), we set out for Las Vegas on a red-eye flight the next morning.

Before heading to the PBR in the afternoon, we Ubered over to the Zappos headquarters in Downtown Las Vegas. It was closed as it was Sunday and there was security everywhere, so filming as planned was difficult, but it was amazing learning about how Zappos grew to be the giant it is today. Zappos, always extremely focused on customer service and determined to revolutionise the online footwear industry, was purchased by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. Learning about Zappos’ processes through our research before heading onsite was fascinating understanding truly how ingrained buying online is in the United States and has been for so much longer than in Australia. I will be writing more about Amazon over the next few months sharing the success stories of Amazon Sellers and experts around the world.

Stop 2: Yosemite National Park in California

When planning our trip to the United States, we knew we had to go to Yosemite National Park. We are keen hikers – if you are based in the Sydney area and love hiking too – let us know and come hiking with us. After only one night in Las Vegas and watching the amazing show of the PBR World Finals, we flew into Fresno, hired a massive Ford Expedition and travelled north to stay in the quaint little town, Chowchilla. It was quite fascinating to find coin-operated newspaper dispensing machines outside the local Mexican restaurant, whilst everyone is buying online at the same time! I don’t think I’ve seen those machines in Australia since I was a child.

Coin operated newspaper vending machine in Chowchilla, California

Coin operated newspaper vending machine in Chowchilla, California

For the American’s reading this, we loved how big everything is! Big cars, big mountains, big highways…. big everything! We have big cars for our family of 7 here in Australia, but they have nothing on American BIG.

Ford Expedition we hired in Fresno, Calfornia to take us to Yosemite.

Ford Expedition we hired in Fresno, Calfornia to take us to Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park was a beautiful place and we can’t wait to go back and spend some more time there now we know how to get there, where everything is and the weather. We weren’t really sure what it was going to be like in November with snowfalls closing the major passes over the mountains. Any tips on things to see in the United States when we are over there next, please let us know.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park, California

Stop 3: Amazon in Seattle, Washington

After two nights in Chowchilla, we head back to Fresno airport and by lunchtime were on our way to the home of Amazon, the rainy city, Seattle. We arrived in Seattle and it was 3 degrees Celcius and raining. After being in 25 degrees in the Nevada desert, Las Vegas, just two days before it was a shock to the system. We rugged up and after much-needed rest, we headed out to walk Seattle Downtown and explore the array of Amazon buildings scattered throughout the city.

Standing outside Amazon HQ in Downtown Seattle

Standing outside Amazon HQ in Downtown Seattle

By far one of the most exciting times in our trip to the United States was interviewing a series of successful Amazon Sellers and consultants based in Seattle. We have some really exciting videos to share from these interviews in the coming months now that the “hype” of Amazon has died down and the real question of “how do we actually do this Amazon thing” hits home. Amazon won’t die here in Australia. It will succeed, it just takes time to get the products that the consumers need and I can tell you they are actively seeking those suppliers now as we are hearing more and more about it from our clients every day.

Stop 4: DEAR Inventory Implementation in Atlanta, Georgia

After two nights in Seattle, we are on a plane to Sacramento to see the Golden State Warriors play Philadelphia 76ers. My love is PBR. Marlon’s is basketball. It was a dream come true to go to an NBA game together and it was well worth the whirlwind trip from Seattle to Sacramento to San Jose, to then board an early morning flight to Atlanta, Georgia (practically on the other side of the USA!).

7 hours or so, stopping via Dallas, Texas Airport (now that’s BIG!), we arrived in Atlanta. The Uber driver was telling us on the way to the hotel how fast Atlanta was growing as the business and tech hub of the South West. Almost like Silicon Valley on the west coast. This is apparent even to us outside of America, with Xerocon USA being held in Atlanta this June 2018.

About 6 weeks before our November trip was about to start, we were truly blessed to be contacted by a “small” food distribution business, P10 Foods, based in Atlanta. I will write their entire story up in next month’s issue of this magazine, but the short version is that they had been using Tradegecko and Xero for some time. They contacted us because they wanted help determining what other add-ons could work with Xero better than Tradegecko. With Tradegecko, they loved the B2B, but they were unable to successfully track lot (batch) numbers and expiry dates. Their product costings weren’t accurate as a result and the Xero integration wasn’t as solid as they liked.

We took the entire team of sales managers, delivery drivers and the owner through our thorough scoping process and tested and demonstrated to them how DEAR Inventory works like Tradegecko but solved their pain points. We also demonstrated how Accelo with its help ticket feature and sales pipeline management would help their delivery drivers and customer service team. Finally, we also demonstrated Tookan to them. It’s a routing or delivery management system that determines the best route for delivery drivers to follow based on the series of deliveries they have on their list to make. They decided to move ahead with DEAR Inventory instead of Tradegecko, and that’s what we were in Atlanta for three days to facilitate. I will share their story in detail for you in the next issue, as well as what we learned from this experience.

P10 Foods, Bringing the Goods to Atlanta, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina

P10 Foods, Bringing the Goods to Atlanta, Georgia, Charleston, South Carolina and Charlotte, North Carolina

Stop 5: QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, California

Our final stop was the original reason for our trip to the United States. The QuickBooks Connect conference in San Jose. It was an eye-opening experience to see how proactive and forward thinking the US advisers in our industry were, after hearing for years “don’t worry about the US, they are all still writing cheques by hand”. Yes, cheques (or checks in US terms) are still a big part of the business culture, but once you step away from the Xero view of the US and see how fast the business community is adopting the cloud in the US – it’s a lot faster than we did here in Australia.

The organic growth that every business community goes through when “getting used” to putting the financials in the cloud happens everywhere. First people have to get used to internet banking and then they have fears about having their financials in the cloud and its security, then the love the efficiency so much they take the leap of faith of moving to Xero or QBO. Once they have done that, they realise that there are add-ons or apps to help make their business even more efficient and they start to use those. Or, they were unable to move to Xero or QBO initially without an add-on, so they had to jump with both feet in and start with an add-on and their chosen accounting system. That’s the typical journey we all have experienced. In Australia, that journey took years! Add-ons weren’t big in the conversation until the last 18 months. There were the early adopters, but still, it wasn’t “common knowledge” until recent times.

In Asia and the USA, I have witnessed that journey from desktop to the cloud with add-ons move much faster than it did here in Australia. What took us 3 years to do in Australia, is happening in the US in just 1 year. The biggest eye-opener for me to this fact was when I walked into a seminar at QBConnect in San Jose on how to select the right app for your client. I think the session was called “Taming the Wild West of Apps”. The room seated around 500 people and there were people standing around the walls. Now many of these advisors had only just started using QBO, but they knew already that to be successful with QBO as an advisor they also had to understand the apps. It was at that moment that I realised how much faster QBO and the cloud will move in America. Xerocon in Australia hasn’t even delivered this level of high-quality speaking on these topics to help advisors get on the front foot. They either have to find it themselves or search out for people like us at WhichAddOn to help them make sense of the “Wild West”.

Since our United States trip in November, we have since been back to Chicago, Illinois to help two clients with Cin7 projects. One of those was Best Value Vacs and the other we will share in another issue of the magazine coming up. We also help clients online (lots of early mornings for me!) providing customised training on DEAR Inventory and Cin7, especially around setup, automation and managing the inventory successfully in the fast-paced US e-commerce and retail market.

Source: QuickBooks Connect, https://quickbooksconnect.com/

Source: QuickBooks Connect, https://quickbooksconnect.com/

Many more stories to come of WhichAddOn working with clients all over the world, I am certain of that. Until next time, remember, no matter where you are in the world, life is better in the cloud.

Read more of our stories in our FREE WhichAddOn magazine here