Industry Trends

Gusto Next 2021 is a Wrap — Here’s What You Might Have Missed

Reviewed by Will Lopez Head Ambassador, Gusto 
gusto next 2021

A year and a half ago, accounting professionals stepped up to guide a trillion-dollar flood of loans and tax credits that helped Americans get paid. You could say they saved business. We say, let us not forget.

That’s why on October 21, Gusto celebrated accountants and bookkeepers everywhere with a free virtual event that gathered thousands of attendees. There, we shared a rousing thanks and asked, with all that’s changed, how will accounting professionals lead in the economy of now?

But hey, we had fun too—it featured yoga, comedy, and a tax rap by Joshua Lee, founder of Ardius (recently acquired by Gusto), that was co-authored by his 12-year-old son. (Parental advisory: It includes strong language like “butt.”)

This gathering was made possible by our wonderful community, our incredible speakers (who we thank throughout this post!), and our indomitable sponsors who share your passion for balanced books. It’s worth thanking them here in full: Ignition, Guideline, FreshBooks, Canopy, Ardius, Xero, Relay, and Brex—thanks for making this a reality. 

And of course, no recap would be complete without thanks to the hundreds of tireless champions who worked behind the scenes to bring the lights, the cameras, and the energy—you know who you are!

Join us at Gusto Next 2022! There, we’ll unveil all new research from Gusto’s economists. For a preview, download last year’s report.

Gusto Next 22 CTA

Gusto CEO Josh Reeves: “Welcome to ‘The Economy of Now’”

The “people + work” equation has changed radically, said Gusto Co-Founder and CEO, Josh Reeves. It’s been happening slowly over two decades, and then rapidly over the last two years, and it means employers are suddenly struggling to meet employees’ expectations.

Employers are facing over four million resignations in the U.S. each month and there are over 10 million open job openings. This is the economy of now—and employers are racing to create a more ideal workplace.

No surprise then that 47% of employers said the advice they most needed from their accountant was “people advice.” That’s why, as a people platform, Gusto is doing everything it can to connect those owners with you — their trusted accounting professional — through new features to help you find tax credits, guard against costly mistakes, and more.

“It’s time to think waay beyond payroll,” said Gusto’s Will Lopez

“The accounting world has been talking about modernizing payroll for … how long now?” I asked in my session on modernizing payroll. (Will Lopez here, Gusto’s Head of Partner Community!) I also shared my own story of the incredible opportunity staring most accountants in the face.

I once had a client spending $600,000 per year on recruiters fees alone, and none of the new hires stayed past three months. I thought, we’re doing their bookkeeping, payroll, everything. How can we be letting this happen?

Enter, advising clients on people operations. Payroll compliance is no longer enough. One-third of employers are willing to pay you to provide proactive advice that optimizes their culture. Already, more than 3,500 firms have adopted Gusto’s People Advisory methodology to do just this.

Gusto’s new Accelerator provides templates and training to charge for people advice

In a changed world, employers face an endless stream of new questions related to managing, hiring, and retaining their people. A Gusto study of more than 2,000 business owners found that:

  • 41% of businesses would pay their accountant for people advice
  • 34% would pay their accountant 20% more for that strategy

Yet for many accountants, this is new territory. That’s why Jaclyn Anku, Gusto’s Accountant Education Manager, and the partner team at Gusto, launched the People Advisory Accelerator,  a self-paced program to help accounting professionals launch their own advisory service. It’ll teach you how to package, staff, price, and deliver People Advisory service subscriptions to clients. And, it works.

Jaclyn shared the stories of four accounting professionals who tripled their payroll revenue in less than three months. Read the success stories of Lance CPA Group, Reconciled, and Momentum Accounting.

You can now send People Advisory (and other) proposals from within Gusto

You help clients grow their businesses and build wealth, but who’s ensuring you and your firm get paid? Ignition. Their Head of Partnerships Ryan Embree shared how the company was started by an accountant who wanted tools for running his own firm, and is purpose-built to help you grow yours, with proposals, payments, billing, client management, and more.

To-date, Ignition has helped over 5,000 firms recognize more than $1 billion in revenue. And now, they’ve integrated with Gusto’s people platform to remove the hassle of bundling payroll subscriptions with People Advisory services.

Three CEOs shared their advisory successes with Gusto’s Caleb Newquist

Gusto’s Editor-at-Large Caleb Newquist dove into precisely how Accelerator helped these CEOs and their firms think differently about People Advisory services. Their reactions were so interesting, we recommend listening to it in full (session number five) — they ranged from “We made so much money I now live in a mansion” (kidding) to “I would not recommend it because we don’t want to share all this wonderful new business” (also kidding — but not about the new business).

Thanks to this illustrious panel:

“Follow your wild idea” said Amber Setter, keynote speaker

And then, Amber Setter, PCC, CPA, and Owner of Amber Setter Coaching took us on a journey outside the bounds of everyday work to talk about something much bigger: Identity. 

Accounting professionals tend to build their identity around expertise, says Amber. But if your sense of self-worth becomes tied up in that, and the profession rapidly changes? It can shake you to your core — and it shouldn’t.

If you can instead tap into your gut intuition, and — “Stay with me here,” laughed Amber — the dreaming layer of existence where your hopes and passions reside, you may find you can adapt with more grace. You also may find yourself doing more of what you always loved, at work.

“In the next economy, your clients will need more than an accountant,” says Amber. “To be much more, and to grow your career in the economy of now, you need to find the dream that scares you and pursue it.” 

Woah. Getting chills? Watch Amber’s full talk (session number six), which walks you through an unforgettable coaching exercise. 

Free up capacity with intelligent automation

Nora Tucker, Gusto’s Head of Product for Accountants, had a complex personal tax situation. She cycled through accountants but was always shocked by end-of-year surprises. Then Nora met Troy, an accountant who refused to simply file her return, and instead, insisted on offering advice first. She ended up paying Troy 3-4 times what she had paid the other accountants, yet was grateful because the value and peace of mind far exceeded that.

“I’ll bet you and your firm are no different than Troy,” says Nora. “But what’s holding most back is capacity. Regulation is constantly changing. There’s a dearth of CPAs. Who has time to advise?”

Which is why Nora’s team is working on features in Gusto that help the one-third of accounting professionals who don’t think they have time to scale their practice, free up capacity with automation.

Already, Gusto helps accountants: 

  • Eliminate repetitive actions and set payroll on autopilot
  • Automatically report new-hires to the government
  • Automatically submit quarterly and end-of-year filings like W-2s and 1099s
  • And more

And soon, you’ll see People Advisory insights within Gusto Pro. It’ll fuse the people data Gusto already collects as a platform with payroll data so you can present those considerations to clients without having to run the numbers yourself.

With more capacity, you may finally have the capability to advise, and to be like Troy.

Gusto Payroll will start showing up in other platforms

Business today is complex. Some 40% of businesses with less than 500 employees are fined each year for payroll-related infractions. That’s why Somrat Niyogi, Head of Business Development at Gusto, is pushing the platform to automate even more of your routine work — both to eliminate human error and save clicks so you can focus on higher-margin work.

For this reason, Gusto Embedded Payroll is an exciting new development. It allows you and your clients to access payroll through other applications they use, and so do less switching. 

“Access to technology [like this] gives us access to rapid innovation,” said Nicholas Pasquarosa, Founder and CEO of Bookkeeper360. “It gives us access to more data in one place so we can code transactions faster and understand business owner’s needs. It’s how we build lasting and trusted relationships with our clients.”

Look for Gusto payroll in a growing number of applications:

The future demands #FearlessInclusion

“Back in my day we did not talk about inclusion,” says Jina Etienne, Principal of Etienne Consulting. “It was, I’m going to get you what you asked for, for the fee I quoted you for, on time, and that was it.” 

But the world is changing, and Jina assured us that good service is no longer enough. “I want all of us to think about inclusion, and to think of it more broadly than we did before,” she said. “It’s about more than just your team. It’s about your clients, too. It’s the entire ecosystem. When everyone in your ecosystem is included, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down, and retention improves, for both your firm and your clients’ business.” 

Put in those terms, what accounting firm can afford not to be thinking more holistically about inclusion? It is a competitive advantage, on top of being the right thing to do.

You can solve the talent shortage for yourself and your clients

If someone could simply “solve” the talent shortage, it’d be great. But it’s a complex equation. Many businesses are still reeling from the pandemic, supply chain disruption, and remote work, and 40% of their employees are considering quitting or changing professions this year. And CPAs? Exam candidate numbers are the lowest they’ve been in a decade.

Which is to say, workers everywhere are reevaluating what’s important to them, and it’s up to you to help employers (and your firm) be the workplace where people want to work. How do you do that? Emil Yeargin, Gusto’s Head of Recruiting, and Leah Brite, Gusto’s Head of Product Marketing for Core Product, shared ideas:

  • Meet candidates where they are — with regard to location, flexibility, connection, pay, and professional development.
  • Use a slick hiring and onboarding software to make a good first impression.
  • Offer benefits that show you care.
  • Use employee engagement tools to increase satisfaction and tenure.

And the great part? Those are features you can find today within Gusto.

Cortex Health grew a team to 500 employees on Gusto

What would it take for you to support a client that grew from 14 employees to 500, in 44 states? Gusto’s Lauren Burke shared the story of Cortex Health, a company that did just that. 

As Lauren shared, “Recruiting, vetting, and onboarding staff [for Cortex Health] was hard. Staying compliant as they expanded employees into 44 states was anxiety producing. They had no HR team. And they had to find high touch ways to support their growing employee base especially while dispersed through the US.”

But they did it, and they did it with the help of Gusto. 

“Because we were willing to hire nurses out of state, there were compliance landmines we didn’t understand,” said Cortex Health Co-Founder and President Josh Albrechtsen, who joined on video to tell the company’s story. “Gusto started recommending things like how to set up taxes correctly … it relieved so much anxiety and stress. If [Gusto] hadn’t done that, it would have been states and cities and municipalities saying, ‘You didn’t do this thing you need to do, here’s here’s a fine.’”

Nurse Janie Jeeves also joined to share her take on the environment that being able to respond to employee surveys or get cash advances created: “I never felt like I had to shy away from saying what I was feeling. It is a great place to work. And sometimes, you need some emergency money, and to be able to grab that and know that it’s yours is very satisfying.”

And all those benefits? Those are administered through Gusto:

  • Gusto performance reviews
  • Job listing integrations
  • Applicant tracking integrations 
  • Performance management integrations 
  • Benefits
  • All states tax withholdings overrides 
  • Ardius R&D Tax Credits 
  • Gusto Wallet & Cashout 
  • Embedded Expense Management 
  • Early direct deposit 
  • Multiple bank accounts 
  • And a new client onboarding process

“You are worthy of more credit,” said Ardius’ Joshua Lee

Remember way back to the introduction when we talked about a tax-themed rap? That was Ardius’ Founder and CEO Joshua Lee’s pièce de résistance, something he cooked up while a CPA at Ernst & Young, and which his 12-year old son helped him tailor for Gusto Next. (To see it, watch session 12 to the end.)

Josh delivered a simple but profound message: You are probably undervaluing yourself and you are worthy of more credit. “People think accountants must work long hours, stick to one job, be introverted, and avoid creativity,” said Joshua. But in his personal journey, he discovered none of that’s true. 

That’s why he followed a calling to build a business called Ardius (now part of Gusto) that helps accountants discover tax credits — like a $223,000 R&D tax credit for a cosmetics client. He’s proof that when you get creative, when you stray outside your assigned role, you can dream up ways to help in areas nobody imagined, like delivering big tax credits.

And that is how you earn more credit.

There’s no place to go but up

The “people + work” equation is changing. What it means to be an employer is changing. And the responsibility for helping everyone through that evolution falls upon you, the trusted accounting professional. And we here at Gusto think that you and the entire community of accountants and bookkeepers are more than ready for it — and whatever’s next!

For the full event experience, watch Gusto Next 2021, and here’s until next year.

Will Lopez
Will Lopez Will Lopez is Gusto's Head Ambassador to accountant partners and customers. Previously, he empowered accountants as Head of Community & Education. He has dedicated his career to supporting accounting professionals and small businesses with more than 20 years of public- and private-sector experience, including founding and building a modern, cloud-based accounting firm.
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