Chad Davis, CPA, CMA, co-founder and partner of LiveCA joins us for a live interview at #Xerocon New Orleans. He describes the joys of RV living, what it's like to have a remote firm, and offering no-code automation services to clients.
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Blake Oliver: [00:00:00] That's amazing. You basically built this app in bubble? No, it's a no code. That's right. App builder. And they run their business on it. This episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast was recorded in person at Xerocon in New Orleans in August of 2022. To learn more about Xerocon, visit Xerocon That's Xerocon.com. And now on to the episode. Welcome to a special bonus episode of The Cloud Accounting Podcast. We are in New Orleans in person live. David, I can reach out and give you a high five.
Chad Davis: [00:00:48] I want a high five.
David Leary: [00:00:49] Oh oh. Somebody else is here.
Blake Oliver: [00:00:50] Hi. Hey. Chad Davis is here with us. He's also high fiving, touching fingers with David and myself.
David Leary: [00:00:57] And Chad is the co-founder of LiveCA.
Blake Oliver: [00:01:01] Yeah.
David Leary: [00:01:01] Also, I think a.k.a you're the accountant that drives around the RV.
Chad Davis: [00:01:06] That's one way to put it. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. It's it's sort of the one thing I'm known for. It'll be my identity. So when I stop, I don't know what I'll have left. Thanks for that. So I have.
David Leary: [00:01:16] A question on this is obviously of a firm and obviously in the RV you have a remote firm. Sure. What came first? It's like chicken and egg. Did you like, become a remote accountant? Bookkeeper? First your firm and then you're like, I can go get an RV now. Or did you like, I'm going to have an RV? And because of that, I have to now be a remote firm.
Chad Davis: [00:01:33] You've been around the block, too, David. You know what it's like to start. And and Blake, you and I started right around the same time, didn't we?
Blake Oliver: [00:01:39] I think we did. Yeah, except you've. You've become much more successful than I ever was.
Chad Davis: [00:01:42] Hey, people define success in different ways.
Blake Oliver: [00:01:45] So let's. Let's give some people some facts about live. Okay? Tell us the high level metrics brag about when you're bragging about.
Chad Davis: [00:01:52] No, let's keep it really short because that's that's no fun. So there's it was two people when we started my business partner Josh and I. So end of 2012, beginning of 2013, when things started to formalize, I came from the Cayman Islands where I did a five year stint doing accounting work down there. Terrible, horrible life. Life. Wow. Freudian slip.
Blake Oliver: [00:02:11] She doesn't she doesn't listen to that cloud accounting.
Chad Davis: [00:02:14] Yes, she will. She will. She will. She will. So the next bullet is the firm has always been remote, 100%, zero. And fast forward ten years and we're happily working with about 110 Canadians full time. And to answer David's question, it was firm first, then RV about five years in. When you work in your basement for five years, you get the itch to travel. And I scratch that itch and bought an RV and have been on the road since 2018.
David Leary: [00:02:44] You were like the pandemic. Trendsetter Before working at home and buying our V's became cool.
Chad Davis: [00:02:49] What I found out doing this is that there was a whole bunch of other accountants that have lived in RVs and traveled for longer than a year and even met another guy who was doing it for 12 years.
David Leary: [00:02:58] Believe it or not, it's a whole sub community. You can have a podcast just on that. You could being accountants.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:03] There is this community of people who live on the road in RVs and you're a part of it, right?
Chad Davis: [00:03:09] Yeah. Blake and I were chatting in the lobby of the Marriott a day or two ago and yeah, we were chatting about this where there's a whole community called the Escape ers, X, ASCAP ers. And what they do is allow a community that's both in-person, where they do parties and raves in different random spots like Lake Havasu City and in Tucson and in Colorado. And they get together and they party work during the day, party at night.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:36] So if I look out the window here onto where where are we?
David Leary: [00:03:41] Let's just say it's Bourbon Street. Yeah, it's not Bourbon Street.
Blake Oliver: [00:03:44] If I look out the window into the rain. Is your family parked out there in the RV?
Chad Davis: [00:03:49] As cool as that would be? No. But there actually are a couple our viewers that have come up to me and said, hey, we drove down from North Carolina. Wow. And from adjoining adjacent states. I don't know which ones are which, but they did drive down and do a 12 hour drive here. So it's kind of fun chatting to all these people that have lived and traveled in the RV.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:09] How do you focus being in that small space with your family? Like I know you set up like a workspace for yourself. Yeah, you've got like this cool built in desk and all the equipment you need.
Chad Davis: [00:04:19] Yeah, it's an actual office.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:20] But like, I know I'm in a house and I have a door I can close. I still have a hard time focusing. What do you have a door you can do?
Chad Davis: [00:04:27] So if you if you pause this and Google grand design reflection. Three, six, seven bucks, that's the rig we have. And it's 42 feet long. It has what's called a mid bunk and the mid bunk has a door. So you close the door and you have a fully enclosed office.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:43] Oh, man, that's amazing.
Chad Davis: [00:04:44] Above that is the loft where one of the kids sleeps.
Blake Oliver: [00:04:46] And how many kids? How many?
Chad Davis: [00:04:48] Two kids? Two dogs. One great wife.
David Leary: [00:04:52] Tell me about the text. Obviously, you have this office on wheels or has a door, as you said, door on wheels. What about the tech? Like, obviously you need Internet. Sure. You just have to stop at every COA and see if they have Internet. Or do you have devices like how do you do this work remotely? Most of us, like I traveled here and I struggling, you know, working on the plane trip here, right? Sure. Losing wi fi. So how do you do it? How are you? Make productive.
Chad Davis: [00:05:15] Yeah. You lose respect for money during the process because you realize you have to have redundancies. So the first redundancy we have is a Verizon hotspot. Second is an AT&T hotspot. And these things are older. Plans that were grandfathered in in Canada have the same thing just with Canadian carriers. And then on my cell phone for ten bucks, I can use my my phone plan down here for 120 gigs and I can choose between carriers. So is that I was at dinner the other night and T-Mobile was really horrible inside the restaurant and I switched over to Verizon and people were in awe. I also carrier around a StarLink. So now with the new portability, I can have that anywhere.
Blake Oliver: [00:05:56] And that's satellite Internet.
Chad Davis: [00:05:58] Satellite, Internet. So we're up in Nova Scotia right now. We spend three or four months on the southern French coast there and there's no trees where we're at. So StarLink is easily 180, down 50 up every day. And it's quite possibly faster than some people in major cities.
David Leary: [00:06:15] So so you really can go around and smash this mindset people have about desktop accounting software. They're like, Oh, we live in the boonies or we live remote. We don't have good Internet. We have to have desktop software. Like you are smashing the proof in a smashing example that this is not true.
Chad Davis: [00:06:32] David I talked to a guy in Whitehorse who runs a refrigeration company and he's like, Yeah, we're all up on StarLink here. There's no problem working with you, no problem whatsoever.
Blake Oliver: [00:06:43] And does the can you zoom on StarLink? Can you do video chat?
Chad Davis: [00:06:47] Of course.
Blake Oliver: [00:06:48] And it just works like.
Chad Davis: [00:06:49] Yeah, the only issue is that when you're sometimes recording podcasts and they're live connected to something and they're backing up a non-local environment, you might lose a connection here or there. So it blip Sometimes.
Blake Oliver: [00:07:00] It happens to the best of.
David Leary: [00:07:01] Us, but it happens to normal podcast hardware.
Blake Oliver: [00:07:05] Sorry guys, I forgot to record. We'll have to do that again. That's only ever happened once. That's funny. But speaking of podcasts, you have your own.
Chad Davis: [00:07:13] With Jason Stats. Good friend.
Blake Oliver: [00:07:15] Tell us about Automation Town.
Chad Davis: [00:07:17] Sure.
Blake Oliver: [00:07:17] So take us to automation.
Chad Davis: [00:07:19] One of the bullets I probably should have said was that during those ten years, what we really focused on was creating opportunities for team members. So it meant hiring ahead, finding the trends, giving people opportunities to work in areas that they wanted to work in, whether that was managing a bookkeeping support team, doing more tech consulting, doing more CFO work. It allowed them to go and further their career. The same is true for me. So as I moved from different positions within the company, I found that I really enjoyed talking about building stuff and learning about automations, and I was very, very skeptical. I think just like we all are of new technology sometimes. And through that came a love of trying stuff out. And then you find other people that are doing stuff and you realize you really don't know anything. And you start a podcast because you're middle aged and if you're not smoking meat or running a podcast, what are you really doing?
David Leary: [00:08:16] So I think two questions, trying to figure out which one to ask first. So what's your background? Because automation can sometimes be a little scary. Like, did you have an engineering background before or have you always been a numbers guy? How'd you think your comfort level.
Chad Davis: [00:08:29] Is not probably dissimilar to to you and Blake, who is? It was a love of technology, and that's kind of the area of accounting that you followed a little bit more than the tax and the, you know, the the deep accounting work. So, yeah, no different. You just kind of follow what you like. So when you try new things, I bet you that's what the majority of your adult life was like, wasn't it?
David Leary: [00:08:51] David I'm still trying to figure out my adult life. I don't know.
Blake Oliver: [00:08:56] So what do you hear speaking about it? Zero. Con, you're on the agenda. Are you going up tomorrow?
David Leary: [00:09:02] Main stage, I think on stage.
Blake Oliver: [00:09:04] Wow. Big, big shot.
Chad Davis: [00:09:05] We get to talk to a really, really nice person named Rachel Powell, the chief customer officer. And have you had the pleasure yet?
Blake Oliver: [00:09:12] I have not.
Chad Davis: [00:09:12] She is fantastic and she runs a really great team that is based a lot on positive leadership. And believe it or not, I learned from Rachel that you can get a degree in that and study and she's like, she's very, very vocal about the benefits of positive leadership on her team. And after speaking with countless people over the last few days that have been honored him nothing but raving reviews and she wasn't even next to them. So you knew it was kind of genuine. Her goal is to talk about the customer journey, so she's all about the team members that bring zero to life. The. Partners that bring it to customers and the customers that experience it. So she has a few agendas, and a few of them are to make sure that sort of zero Central becomes more mainstream, right? That that thing that sometimes we forget to tell clients exist. There's some small business insights that Zero's creating and releasing now and Xerocon that will help people sort of benchmark ideas of things where time to pay and revenue growth and all of the stuff that we've seen during some of the presentations. And just generally helping move forward some of the products in zero that maybe not have gotten as much love as they have in the past.
David Leary: [00:10:29] So when you say customer journey, it's talking about like small businesses or clients and they're on their own journey and it's how you 000 partnerships is all supporting those clients.
Chad Davis: [00:10:40] Yeah, let's say so.
David Leary: [00:10:41] So just speaking of the clients and so on that journey, their first step is like, Hey, I found an accountant and they see K they find out you're in an RV. Is that like does that scare people away? Like, like when do you bring that up in the relationship.
Chad Davis: [00:10:54] Right away because you look like you're in an RV sometimes. I mean, you have a plan.
David Leary: [00:10:58] Oh, the video. I mean, if you don't.
Chad Davis: [00:10:59] Have a plan behind you with a light, I mean, are you really even a virtual worker anymore? So it's a fake plan, of course. But the the answer to that is we own it really upfront, Like everybody is working remotely. They always have. And typically people find you because they agree with something that you have on your website or they were told that you stand for or that you're good at something. So for us personally, we have a very strict intake sort of ideal client. So about $2 million and above in revenue, there can't be any personal like sole proprietor companies. And the idea of the company is that it's either in a high growth stage where they want to have us build and then help hire internally as we scale off or we're there and we are that full time finance team for less than the price of a full time hire. And that mantra sticks with them for as long as they need us, which translates into accountants that want to kind of settle into that kind of group. And we tend to attract bookkeepers and accounts payable and payroll people that are more on the sort of higher end of their like their their learning cycles and like where they're at in their career. So not necessarily age, but in skill level. So very skilled people and they're wanting to work with more complex clients. So we tend to have a reputation of working with really complex clients in the Xero ecosystem.
David Leary: [00:12:23] So it makes sense in like how you fill in those automation are needed too, because I think clients start to get that big. These high growth companies, they have to create processes, they have to automate themselves. Not like lot of people think about automating stuff in their own firm, but you're doing it for clients.
Chad Davis: [00:12:38] Yeah. A good example is there is a not like the Airbnb of but but a rental agency that deals with hundreds of rentals. They use GST. But guests integration with QuickBooks and with Xero is the Zapier. That's all they do. So they say here is here's the Zapier connection and that is fantastic for people that want to build. But if you're not really comfortable with APIs or working with Zapier, you're kind of not able to to do what you need to do. So we showed them how we would use the API to do full trust accounting, to do payouts to their vendors, to have revenue recognition built in. We kind of phased it out and we'll be working with them on building that application from scratch.
David Leary: [00:13:24] Oh.
Chad Davis: [00:13:25] Because a good example.
Blake Oliver: [00:13:26] So how's your team held up over the last few years, Chad Like what? Yeah, I think.
Chad Davis: [00:13:31] We're not we're not immune to everything that most firms have experienced. You would think that a fully remote team might have a tougher time with the connection piece, but I think you'll find, as you speak to a lot of companies that have a strong culture, it is really about supporting each other and having people in support roles to coach. So one of the things that we've done a lot differently over the last two years is introduce the idea of career coaching and professional coaching from my business partner Josh. So he learned how to do that work, worked with a lot of different coaches and now his full time job is to work with our team members, developing career plans and listening and making sure that we're connecting the dots between their needs and feelings and what the company is growing. And he can tie all of that back to the vision and to what we're working on. I feel like that's been the sort of golden goose moment for us where it just kind of comes together.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:31] Wow. So that bear is just emphasizing that your partner, who you started this firm with, he spends all his time coaching. He's not doing client work. He's just coaching the how many team members is it? 100.
Chad Davis: [00:14:46] 110 or.
Blake Oliver: [00:14:46] 110? Yeah. And I could see how that could totally be. Full time.
David Leary: [00:14:50] Oh, I miss this. You have 100. Your team is 110. It's 110 clients.
Chad Davis: [00:14:54] No, no. Team. Team? Yeah.
David Leary: [00:14:55] Wow.
Chad Davis: [00:14:56] I always think. Wow. Wow. Yeah. So we serve mostly Canadians. And if there's American companies that are looking for a firm that they are most likely working with in America that's virtual and techie and works, they tend to find that with us if they're of a certain size. So we've been able to work with the likes of like Magic Spoon and Boxer and Substack and all these clients that are coming up to to Canada.
Blake Oliver: [00:15:23] So what's your favorite automation that you or your team has built? And it could be one for a client, it could be personal, like just something cool you made.
Chad Davis: [00:15:32] Okay, so, uh, there's lots of choose from it. And David's laughing because I know he's he's big into automations with what he's building, with his accounting conferences stuff. It's really nice.
Blake Oliver: [00:15:44] Are you talking about Accountingconferences.com? You can learn about.
David Leary: [00:15:47] All the conferences like Xero. That's right.
Chad Davis: [00:15:51] Favorite one. I'll keep it short. There was a customer who places developers inside of Fortune 500 companies and they had a huge list of developers. They would place them. They needed to mark up their hours and invoices and then send them off. So very manual without a system. But they had to have approvals, they had to have different contracts, they had to have different reporting, they had to integrate their sales system. So v one of this was we built it all out in their table so that when clients and customer sorry, when Conn's consultants needed to submit their invoice, it was in structured data format plus an attachment that would then validate against a contract and it either was plus or minus, whether true or false. If they could pass go, if if it validated against the contract terms, then it would create an invoice to the person based on the contract terms and that payment items, it would create the zero invoice for the consultant and then use the due dates according to their own consultant. Contracts is getting boring. I'm sorry.
Blake Oliver: [00:16:55] Well, no. So you're creating you're creating the so that your client is placing the the developers.
Chad Davis: [00:17:00] Yeah.
Blake Oliver: [00:17:01] And so they have to build their time through to the end. That's right. And so you're automating the creation of the bill to your client from the developer. That's right. On the invoice to.
Chad Davis: [00:17:10] The, the.
Blake Oliver: [00:17:11] The customer.
Chad Davis: [00:17:11] Yeah. So the customer. So consultant invoices, vendor bills go into zero. Yeah. All verbatim based on the structure data or after an approval or modification was made then because it creates a bill, you might think, okay, it's 1 to 1, but we actually built it in our table to say, okay, gather up all of the outstanding invoices for this contract, then create the bill, then make sure that those line items are in the zero invoice and move on. That worked for about six or eight months, but it just got too big. They were doing thousands of things and there was just too many air table users. And you know what it's like when it gets pretty complex. So we moved that over to bubble and we created our own app for them and they saw how great it was working in a jangled together situation. So then we put it into bubble, you know, unlimited users, full custom customizing app building, and now they're able to do like five phases more than what they could have done in our table. And this has been about a year, a year and a half, and that was our very first automation project and that's been kind of cool.
Blake Oliver: [00:18:15] That's amazing. You basically built this app in bubble? No, it's a no code. That's right. App Builder. And they run their business on it.
Chad Davis: [00:18:24] They do. And the good thing is, if we meet customers in the future that need to take in a consultant invoice, mark it up and move on. We have the logic, the shell, the users, the database. You can do it again, be able to attach it to them as well. Well.
Blake Oliver: [00:18:38] I guess if it gets sophisticated enough, I mean, do you own the IP on the app that's built so you package it up and sell it? Yeah, right.
Chad Davis: [00:18:45] What about you? I have to ask you, in terms of your automations, what are you most happy with? What saves you the most time?
Blake Oliver: [00:18:51] David Lowry's favorite automation.
David Leary: [00:18:52] Yeah, favorite automation. I know it sounds dumb, but I just I'm connecting a lot of things. I have a task manager called Workflow A.I. Flow, and I just like the signs of task mean notion or some other tool, or somebody sends me a direct message in Slack. I can just in all my basically all my inbound tasks, just get put into that app so I don't have to let everything I have to do is just in one app now, but it's all so small little integrations all over. That's what I'm doing right now, but I'm typically my stack would be you have better table process St Zapier and the three of those together is really I think Blake the other day referred to Process Street as an API for humans. Yes, you can program humans with process three. It's kind of interesting way to think about it.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:37] Yeah. And my my favorites is one I did recently, which is very simple, is weekly reporting for our team. So like for me to get David to do a weekly report, like.
Chad Davis: [00:19:45] A David laughing at you. He's like, he's like he's like, wax on, wax off.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:50] Yeah. I mean, you know, I got.
David Leary: [00:19:52] Created this because of me that.
Blake Oliver: [00:19:54] I'm basically programing David Lurie through process. So I created a weekly process a week. Workflow that has some fields in it. What'd you do last week? What are you going to do this week? And what are you stuck on? That's like my.
Chad Davis: [00:20:05] Form. You send that to David.
Blake Oliver: [00:20:06] Everyone has to do one at at our company.
Chad Davis: [00:20:10] And Dave, does he fill it out?
Blake Oliver: [00:20:10] David specifically gets an extra one. So? So they get a reminder. The team gets a reminder to go in and fill out your form. And when you check off the task, it, it through Zapier posts it into our Google chat space, you know, and it's just an easy way to automate me having to like, follow up with people and ask them, Hey, you didn't submit your report. It's not in the right format. Please do it right next time. Now. It's just all exactly the way my maniacal dictator like brain wants it. That's great. If you like control. Automation is actually a great control freak.
Chad Davis: [00:20:47] It is.
Blake Oliver: [00:20:48] A passion.
Chad Davis: [00:20:49] If it doesn't break.
Blake Oliver: [00:20:50] If it doesn't break. So you got to be you like being in control, but you can't get frustrated because it's going to break all the time. I mean, not all the time, but a lot of the time.
David Leary: [00:21:00] All right. So, Chad, if people are loving this automation talk and they want more of it, how do they find your podcast to talk about automation? And then how do people get a hold of you just in general?
Chad Davis: [00:21:09] Find me on all the socials. I'm David Larry, and you can find me on all the Twitters and LinkedIn. I'm Blake Oliver.
David Leary: [00:21:15] Obviously your listener.
Chad Davis: [00:21:18] Automation show is all one word.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:20] Automation Town.
Chad Davis: [00:21:22] Sorry, we do have a radio show inside of the podcast called Automation Show, which is another story.
David Leary: [00:21:28] Little meta.
Chad Davis: [00:21:29] Little little soap operation. And it's kind of where we're taking the next a little bit of it, but it's called Automation Town, all one word. It's on every podcast player using the same system. You're using Transistor.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:39] We love that.
Chad Davis: [00:21:39] And the company's name is Live Klp Live Kaka up in Canada, and we're always looking for good people that want to work with more complex clients.
Blake Oliver: [00:21:49] Chad, great talking to you.
David Leary: [00:21:50] Thanks. Amazing.