As an API Solutions Consultant for Thomson Reuters, I am continuously speaking with different customers about which APIs we offer and different use cases on how to implement them.
But why are APIs so important to CPAs and how does an accountant learn about APIs if they don’t have a technical background?
The article that follows is an interview with Ford Baker and Joe Abesamis from the Baco group about their API journey.
About Ford Baker, CPA & CEO BaCo Tech & BaCo Group: Ford has over 35 years of experience in the accounting industry. Ford developed Baco Tech which is a transaction-based workflow system using Excel and various other off the shelf utilities that make gathering and working with data more real-time. This workflow concept can change the industry from a reactive service, putting last year’s balances on last year’s returns, to proactive services, teaching clients the impact of this year’s numbers on their business, its exit value, and next year’s tax bill, today.
About Joe Abesamis, CPA: Joe Abesamis is a redemptive CPA who exists to fix what is wrong in the public accounting profession. Since 2007, he has worked in various firms where billable hours were valued over outcomes, profits came before people, and men became machines. Joe wants to reverse the curse and provide hope for a brighter future to the profession. Joe aims to inspire the next generation of CPAs through BaCo Group PLLC, a boutique tax and accounting firm, and BaCo Tech, an accounting tech company that will eliminate “busy” season from our vocabulary.
As an accountant, please describe what an API is?
Ford Baker: The ability to get what you need without having to ask for it. APIs enable you to connect with data and then normalize it so it can connect to more than one client. The most valuable thing about an API is the ability to get more information.
Joe Abesamis: I didn’t know what an API was until recently. I’ve been a CPA for 14, and it’s only been since joining the BaCo group that I realized how valuable an API is because it allows software to integrate. Being able to gather data is a pain point for CPAs and using APIs was a way to get around the application limitation of gathering data. Additionally, the accounting industry middleware right now is Excel. Currently, we rely on it to do the talking between applications and there is no real integration. APIs are making the old ways of doing things, like Excel, obsolete. “As an accountant, if we are going to try to automate, we are going to need data and open APIs.”
How did you get started with APIs?
Ford Baker: In 2012, I had a client that needed to consolidate 43 QuickBooks files. The client did not have an accountant on staff, however they had programmers, so the client gave me a programmer to help consolidate the files. During this time, I really saw the value in using technology. While working with the programmer, I remember the moment I found myself thinking that I could build my own accounting software. With this new accounting software, I thought I could get the software to do the things I needed to do which were specific to my firm. When I got this programmer resource, I really started to understand the concept of simplify, standardize, and automate. After this specific client project was over, I hired another programmer from Puerto Rico within my firm. At first, we struggled to communicate to due language issues, but we used Google Translate to bridge the gap.
As a CPA, how did you know what job requirements would be needed when hiring a programmer?
Ford Baker: I first hired a communications person who was a former recruiter. Then I had an introduction to another developer who helped me understand what type of questions to ask when trying to hire the right programmer. One piece of advice I did not listen to during this process was that the person needed to have former development skills with accounting software. I ended up going with someone that did not have prior accounting software development experience, but I believe this was an advantage because the person I hired did not have any preconceived ideas about the way something should be built and therefore worked closer with me.
What is your biggest ROI with how you implemented APIs?
Joe Abesamis: In 2020, our realization rate was 143% after implementing our solution and in prior years they were around 85%. Personally, working less overtime allowed me to spend more time with my family. Some of our staff members even turned down other opportunities because of the work that our firm is doing with technology.
What advice would you give to other accounts looking to begin their API journey?
Ford Baker: Never say never. Don’t say you can’t. Don’t tell me what you did last year. Tell me what you want to do this year. Once you begin getting real time data, you are not going to do things the same way you did the year before. Whatever you have in mind is probably a very valuable tool if you create enough pushback. Also, when working with your developer, you can’t just tell them the problem. You also need to tell them what the solution looks like too.
Joe Abesamis: As CPAs, we know our pain points and we can identify if there is an API out there that will help alleviate some of the issues we have. Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop pushing because there is a CPA out there who already embraces APIs. Push back to your software vendors so they understand your pain points and they can then release the APIs you need.
“…the opportunities he saw from embracing API technology with his CPA experience was tremendous.”
After I interviewed Ford and Joe, I thought what an amazing and unique experience they went through. I asked if a client loaning a programmer to a CPA was common and they said “definitely not” but what Ford learned from that experience and the opportunities he saw from embracing API technology with his CPA experience was tremendous. I would encourage everyone to embrace any chance to think of new ways of working because you never know when a light bulb moment might occur which can change the accounting industry using your CPA knowledge and new technology.
BaCo Tech is a product of Ford Squared Technologies LLC. BaCo Tech is driven to help improve the work experience of every CPA firm. Their technology provides a workflow that improves Work-Life Balance, effectively eliminating overtime in tax season.
Visit their website for more information.
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