I had the opportunity this month to interview Jeff Cates, President, Intuit Canada, to discuss the value of AI and data-driven insights for small business owners and accountants. He also spoke about its first ‘QuickBooks Connect Toronto’ event, which took place in December 2017.
You recently hosted a 3-day event, QuickBooks Connect Toronto. Tell me about it and who participated. Is it a first in Canada?
Cates: “QuickBooks Connect is Intuit’s flagship event that brings together small businesses, accountants and developers to connect, learn and be inspired. We’ve previously hosted these events in San Jose, Sydney and London, and now we’ve brought the celebration to Canada for the first time.”
“We showcased new technologies from Intuit, like the new AI-powered QuickBooks Assistant and a direct bank feed integration with CIBC. The event’s main stage featured entrepreneurs and business leaders who have vision, passion, and pursued their dreams like Sarah Richardson, Founder of Sarah Richardson Design, Entrepreneur & TV Host, Bruce Croxon, Managing Partner, Round 13 Capital, TV Co-host, The Disruptors, former Dragon on Dragons Den, and Dr. Roberta Bondar, astronaut, physician, scientist and photographer.”
At QuickBooks Connect Toronto, you ran many small business sessions and networking sessions. From these sessions, what are some key insights that attendees took away?
Cates: “Within these sessions, attendees had the opportunity to learn from industry experts like Jyll Saskin Gales, International Growth Consultant at Google, who shared her tips on how to grow your business with Google in 5 steps. She walked the entrepreneurs in attendance through how to understand their audience, define business goals, find their audience, achieve their goals and measure what matters – all using tools provided by the search engine we use every day.”
“Erin Bury, Marketer and owner of Eighty-eight, offered her invaluable experience a business owner and highlighted seven ways startup thinking can help entrepreneurs become better marketers. This session will drew from her experiences, defining the difference between startup thinking vs. corporate thinking, and outlined how to apply an entrepreneurial mindset to marketing programs. She also showcased studies of successful startup marketing programs, and provided tips on how to market to small business owners in the community.”
“Accountants, bookkeepers and tax preparers [also] learned from industry experts from around the world about how to leverage the latest trends and technology to save time, grow their practices and power the prosperity of their clients.”
‘Generational Shifts: How to Get Along with Boomers, GenXers, and Millennials’ sounded interesting. What was shared at this session?
Cates: “As North America’s foremost expert on technology-based conversation, development and learning for each generation, Dr. Mary Donohue, AKA “Dr. Mary,” shared her annual research to help entrepreneurs understand more about themselves and the people around them…. She shared how and why Gen X and Gen Y might not get along at work, and what’s coming with Gen Z, but most of all, she left attendees with actionable takeaways on how to effectively communicate in our digital, multi-generational work place.”
How does Intuit support small businesses with financial literacy?
Cates: “Intuit works with small businesses, developers and accounting professionals to build [products and platforms], that make it easy for new business owners to develop a strong understanding of their finances from the very beginning.”
“We also partner with frontline startup organizations to promote financial literacy across Canada, launching national grassroots initiatives that offers financial resources to Startup Communities across Canada. Our partnership with Startup Canada, for example, has reached entrepreneurs across the country and engaged government, industry and media decision makers locally, nationally and globally.”
Using QuickBooks solutions, how can small businesses harness the power of AI and data-driven insights?
Cates: “Intuit has invested heavily in artificial intelligence to help QBO users harness predictive and proactive data-driven insights to make smarter, more informed decisions when it comes to their business. For example, the new QuickBooks Assistant uses natural language processing to ease entrepreneurs’ business operations by merely asking questions or stating requests, using their smartphone.
Does Intuit work with or support certain professional associations? Which ones? How?
Cates: “In 2016, Intuit collaborated with several incubators and organizations to enable entrepreneurial success through financial literacy across the country. Our friends at Startup Canada, SociaLIGHT, Launch Academy, Notman House and the DMZ at Ryerson University offered their services to the “Startup Foundations” program to help educate, train and enable up to 10,000 startups in Canada and improve their basic financial management skills, make better decisions and ultimately fuel business success.”
“As a former entrepreneur myself, I’ve dedicated my career to helping Canadian business owners thrive, reducing startup failure through financial literacy. In addition to the work I do at Intuit, I’m also part of the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy, a government body which provides guidance to the Financial Literacy Leader, Jane Rooney, and champions the National Strategy for Financial Literacy. Jeff also sits on the Board of Directors for Startup Canada.”