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Intuit’s annual QuickBooks Connect (QBC) Canada conference took place this week, and just like a lot of notable events and launches over the past 15 months, things were a bit different. Normally, QBC would be hosted in-person, but this year the event has moved online. Despite the change in format, the topics and discussions seem more relevant than ever.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: many businesses suffered a great deal throughout the pandemic. Declines in physical connection and traffic tested the resiliency of nearly every small business owner out there in more ways than one. But at QBC, the sentiments revolved around hope and growth as the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally comes into view.
Every year, Intuit uses QBC to debut new features and tools within the QuickBooks platform, all designed to streamline operations for business owners and remove the burden of tiresome and unnecessarily confusing financial data entry. This year was no different, as QuickBooks rolled out nearly a dozen new upgrades built around these core concepts. However, one theme that rose above the rest was this idea of resilience. That meant not only developing tools to equip businesses to come out of the pandemic and hit the ground running and ready to scale but to also understand the new business normal.
“The country needs small businesses. They’re the backbone of Canada’s economic growth, and they’re anything but small.”David Marquis, VP and Country Manager, Intuit Canada
But what does that new normal look like? Intuit’s new The Future of Entrepreneurship in Canada Report highlights a massive shift towards independence and small business. Due to Covid, a remarkable number of people have turned to self-employment and side hustles to survive and even prosper.
Andrew Smith, Director of Product for QuickBooks Canada, is perhaps the best person to sing the praises of his platform and the positive impact it can have on a business. But this year, he is quick to point to the business owners themselves and impart that message of hope and resilience.
“I’ll say that 110% of the credit for the resiliency of the businesses we support at QuickBooks belongs with the entrepreneurs who run them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” says Smith. “We know that for our customers, their businesses are nonstop. That means they have to constantly make trade-offs: trade-offs on how they spend their money, and trade-offs on how they spend their time. And that’s why we’re building simple tools to give entrepreneurs a lift when making these trade-offs.”
“Simple” is the keyword here. The updates to QuickBooks announced this week revolve around streamlining the ability to navigate rapidly-changing business landscapes without feeling lost or overwhelmed. In QuickBooks’ case, “simple” means saving a business owner time and helping them make better decisions more quickly, all of which are incredibly important to any business owner. These new features represent Intuit’s ability to pivot and shift its priorities to reflect what business owners want, and that has enabled customers to not only handle the brunt of the pandemic but also feel confident enough to start new businesses and take risks.
David Marquis, VP and country manager for Intuit Canada, kicked off QBC with a keynote that united these feelings of hope and resilience under the conference’s theme of “We Go Further Together.”
“It’s in the DNA for small businesses to see a challenge and to show up,” said Marquis in his keynote. “At QuickBooks, we’re committed to doing everything we can to help you rise to that challenge.”
Planning for the future
At the height of the pandemic last year, QuickBooks unveiled one of its most effective tools yet, the Cash Flow Planner. The tool was an immediate hit, so naturally, this year’s QBC features new upgrades and improvements.
“We know that providing business owners greater control over their money translates into improved cash flow and higher small business success rates—which is why we launched the QuickBooks Cash Flow Planner,” says Smith. “It gives customers a snapshot of their cash flow months in advance based on their financial data. If a cash flow shortfall is projected, they can take proactive measures like advancing an invoice or delaying a bill payment.”
“If we’re successfully channeling our customers’ resiliency and future-leaning mindsets into QuickBooks, then we’re doing what we set out to do.”Andrew Smith, Director of Product, QuickBooks Canada
One new “proactive measure” debuting in QuickBooks this year is called Payment Links, which is the ability for QuickBooks Payments users to text their customers a digital payment link. These are very frequently paid on the same day, dramatically improving cash flow.
“Helping our customers better manage their cash flow has always been a core focus at QuickBooks,” says Smith. “However, the pandemic has hit many of our customers with hurricane-force winds, which has led to a step-function change in our customers’ desire to proactively manage their cash flow. On our end, the pandemic has magnified our desire to both deepen and broaden our money offerings.”
Another new feature, called partner-enabled Invoice Funding, debuts later this year and allows eligible customers to get their invoices paid upfront for a small fee. For businesses in a growth phase, this reduces the need to rely on credit cards or loans and makes immediately available the cash they would otherwise eventually receive on invoice payment.
In the same “ready-to-scale” mindset, QuickBooks is also unveiling a new Employee Workforce Portal. Through the portal, employees can onboard themselves and access core company documents without the need for an admin to add each new hire individually. The portal even lets employees see their time off, access paycheques, and see tax slips.
Invoice Funding and the new Employee Workforce Portal both fall under the “ready for the future” umbrella. Business owners are eager to put the pandemic behind them and embrace a new era of growth.
“I’d say that if we’re successfully channeling the resiliency and future-leaning mindset of the entrepreneurs we support into QuickBooks, then we’re doing what we set out to do,” says Smith. “Greater financial insight. Faster employee onboarding. Easier access to capital. Each of these elements of our accelerating QuickBooks ecosystem has one common theme: Empowering entrepreneurs to deliver, and consequently increasing their rate and scale of success.”
Save time, save money
Of course, one of the core benefits of QuickBooks is just how much time it saves business owners. Whether it’s cutting down the time spent inputting payroll information, locating tax forms, or dozens of other time-saving features, QuickBooks prides itself on giving time back to entrepreneurs, and new features announced this year share the same sentiment.
The new Contractor Management tool tracks contractor payments throughout the year into either T4A or T5018 tax slips, so when tax time comes, all the business owner needs to do is pick the right form to file.
“Come tax time, we’re going to help them save 85% of the time it took to file year-end contractor forms this past year,” says Smith.
“As we come out of this pandemic, we’re doing everything we can to help entrepreneurs sharpen their financial insight, take control of their money, and get meaningful time back.”Andrew Smith
The Payroll Tax Centre lets users track and pay payroll taxes directly through QuickBooks, so when a tax bill comes due, a reminder will appear. From there, the user can easily review and choose how to pay.
Meanwhile, the new Simplified Records of Employment feature trims down the tedious task of manually filing records of employment through Service Canada. Normally, this might take 30 minutes per new employee, along with the time taken to track down the right data and ensure it’s entered perfectly (or risk huge fines!). Now QuickBooks users can download a record of employment in Service Canada’s preferred file format in just a few steps, and even change employment status on the fly.
The final two new features focus on both the user and customer desire for customization. The Price Rules update eliminates the hassle of manually setting different prices for different customers by automatically tracking any and all discounts. This means it’s easier than ever to offer loyalty discounts, create holiday sales, or set wholesale prices.
On the user side, the highly-demanded Project Tags feature is debuting this year. The tags serve as customizable labels that let the user track information by tagging it in whichever way makes the most sense for their business. Use different tags to track income, expenses, and nearly everything else, providing the clearest view yet into the financial health of the business.
A year ago, it might have seemed hard to be hopeful about the future of business. Times have changed. According to Intuit’s report, nearly three-quarters of Canadian entrepreneurs (73%) and 76% of aspiring entrepreneurs say they are optimistic for the future.
“Ultimately, difficult times also have silver linings,” said Marquis as he wrapped up his keynote. “Disruption and opportunity go hand in hand.”
Through the new QuickBooks tools and features unveiled at this year’s Connect conference, Intuit is hoping to equip those millions of entrepreneurs with the tools to continue unleashing their budding dreams.
“As we come out of this pandemic—and as our customers finally move from playing defense to playing offence—we’re doing everything we can to help them sharpen their financial insight, take control of their money, and get meaningful time back,” says Smith.
This information is intended to outline Intuit’s general product direction, but represents no obligation and should not relied on in making a purchasing decision. Additional terms, conditions and fees may apply with certain features and functionality. Eligibility criteria may apply. Product offers, features, functionality are subject to change without notice.