Edmonton’s Bob Hahn on Technology

Technology provides some powerful tools, but there are some very simple tools for managing your processes and time too. Bob talks about tools and tactics to be efficient and that there are times when tried and true still has an edge on tech.

Learn more about Bob at Hahn & Houle Chartered Accountants

Transcript Follows:

Hi. My name is Bob Hahn. I'm with Hahn Houle Lukey Chartered Accountants, abbreviated HLH Chartered Accountants. And we're located downtown Edmonton. Our firm is truly about understanding disruption, and understanding that in the accounting field, disruption's gonna be a massive game changer, coming forward. In the next three to five years, I truly believe what we're gonna deliver to our clients is gonna be very different than what the traditional CA firm does. And I see that as just hugely exciting, and something that we're poised, and ready to go for.

Well, we use technology on a daily basis, every single minute in the office. Some of our students, obviously, are using a lot of software to deal with client data. We download a lot of information, and we have software that we use to create financial statements. One of the things, though, that I think is gonna change coming forward here, very, very soon, is that much of the planning pieces, let's say the traditional method of doing our work, we consider things, given our history, and all the courses we go to, we do that ourselves.

I believe that there's gonna be apps that are gonna take over and do a lot of this work, maybe consider 20 different factors for our clients, rather than just the two, or three, or four. But it's gonna be disruptive, and I plan to be that disruptor. Primarily, our planning, scheduling, is all in Microsoft Office, the suite. We use tax prep and some other accounting type software pieces. But we look for apps that help us do our job. So very traditional accounting pieces, at this point.

I think, going forward, all of this downloading of data, right from the banking systems, and populating general ledgers directly, like QuickBooks online, I believe that that's just the way of the future, that's maybe just one product. There's probably gonna be two or three out there shortly, that will do all of that.

And at the same time, it's gonna talk to tax software directly, and a lot of the things, that's the disruption piece I think is gonna hit our industry. It's gonna hit fast, and it's gonna talk directly. It's gonna be smart, it'll learn from where all the things were posted. These electronic posting mechanisms are gonna be much more accurate than what we did previously, as hands on bookkeeping pieces. It'll all be done, and so a lot of that work is gonna become much more efficient, in terms of how much time you're gonna take to get it done.

So, but we need to be on the other side. So what are we gonna provide to our clients, to give more value? And from our point of view, we're all about finding the waste in your business. So Toyota's been after eliminating the eight wastes. They're the standard eight wastes, that they're called the eight deadly wastes.

We run seminars on this, to help you as a business identify those wastes in your business. And rather than having that hidden waste in your business, you're gonna try to shrink that waste box, if you like, and replace it with either profit, or being able to compete with the marketplace, such as you can drop your selling price. So your standard costs, those costs that the customers are willing to pay for, those are value added costs. You're gonna hang on to those. But all those non value added expenses, and anything you do that's non value added to your customer, you're gonna try to eliminate that stuff.

So, in the future, as we see it, our firm, we wanna help you eliminate waste in your business. And we're doing that in our office, right now. We've been down this track for about three years, in terms of things like a morning meeting, where we talk about something that bugs us every single day. Thinking about processes that we can change, every single day. So if there is something that we decided to change yesterday at the meeting, at 9:15, it's a stand up meeting, we decided to change it yesterday. And if it didn't work, 24 hours later we talk about it again, and we make a change that fast, and we talk about it again tomorrow morning.

So, the change in our office happens very, very quickly. And it's all about eliminating these eight wastes in our business. So I wanna take that same content to our clients, to say, "Okay, all of that historical accounting piece, that's kind of interesting. But you have some tax planning pieces, that's the traditional accounting route. But you know, what's really important, is that we can help you plan and grow your business, and stay profitable going forward."

We actually went backwards from technology. So, we had an Excel spreadsheet, and we tracked all the jobs in our office, for example. And we had this spreadsheet, we had everybody fill out the components of the spreadsheet. And it took, let's say a half an hour a week, for people to fill this out every Monday morning. And then it would go to Kelly, and Kelly would do this master spreadsheet.

And it was just a giant waste of time. So by noon, I get this master spreadsheet, and then you know what? It was already out of date. It was just, it was crazy, the amount of time and effort we put into this thing. So we went backwards, buddy. We looked at software apps, and you know, there are $10,000 solutions, and all this kind of stuff.

And we went strictly with whiteboards. And in the lunch room, if you came to the office, we have a very visual system. Post it notes, which cost not a whole lot. A little post it note, mine colored blue, so you could track every one of Bob's jobs across the white board. Everybody walks by the white board, probably 10 times a day. And we know exactly where all the jobs are, and it's virtual. And so, it's constantly up to date. So I don't know. Sometimes technology is pretty cool, but at other times, when you have a visual system, and this one just works, like a damn. It is fantastic.

Well, in terms of the eight wastes, our next big deal on this is that, we felt we had a lot of traction in the first 12 months, in terms of understanding the eight wastes, and where this is going. I've now been thinking a lot about culture, and how do you keep the lean culture, that process improvement culture, happening every single day in your office?

And so we've, with the help of some research people from the university, we've now developed a separate course on lean culture. And we talk about things like, what is the sense of urgency, and how do you communicate this? And how do you create that vision, of what you want your office to be? What does that lean office look like, or that lean organization look for?

So, not only are we gonna talk about these eight wastes, but we're gonna help our clients understand how to build that culture. And how do they move themselves forward, and keep this initiative going? You know, Toyota has been doing this for 65 years, and they said that after 40 years, they felt that they had kind of built a culture. So, we're in catch up mode here, we need to get going on this quickly.

And so, there's a lot that we can learn, and this is all just truly exciting stuff. And we want our customers, our clients, to understand that.