In November, I attended the annual QuickBooks Connect Conference in Silicon Valley. The conference sold out – and not just from accounting and bookkeeping professionals. 

I’ve attended three times before, and I get a lot out of the event each year. But with Intuit (the QuickBooks parent company) diving into areas like machine learning and artificial intelligence really upped the game.

The event has three tracks – accounting, marketing, and entrepreneurship. I spend most of my time in the last because, while I am an accounting professional, I’m also an entrepreneur. I enjoy learning from others and finding ways to run my business better. QuickBooks Connect is an excellent place to do that. Here’s why: 

You’ll be inspired by innovative leaders

Entrepreneurship can be a lonely gig. Sometimes all of us need to be inspired by the greater community of entrepreneurs.

Being at an event filled with other people faced with some of the same opportunities and challenges – connecting and problem-solving together – can provide the energy and insight that comes from being on a team, even if you’re going it solo.

I spent my time at the conference focused on workshops and panels by and for entrepreneurs. 

I’m sure everyone walked away with different favorites, but I was particularly buoyed and inspired by the women entrepreneurs in a Female Shark Tank panel. They’d all been on the show and shared their lessons learned. Lessons from before and after participating in Shark Tank. 

The mix of experiences highlighted the reality of entrepreneurship. Not all entrepreneurs are successful millionaires, even ones that get on Shark Tank. Some have done really well. Some are still limping along or trying to figure out how to make their business successful. 

Most of the press around entrepreneurs focuses on wildly successful entrepreneurs, highlighting all the amazing things happening in their business. They’re not covering the 95% of entrepreneurs who are still struggling to get their business model to work or growing at a more organic rate rather than an exponential scalable rate. These everyday, main street entrepreneurs, are creating businesses to support their livelihood rather than an empire. 

QuickBooks Connect also highlighted an important point that doesn’t get enough attention. Not every business is right for investment. 

Even many of the businesses on Shark Tank should be going through normal financial channels, like getting a small business loan. Raising money from investors gets a lot of attention and sounds awfully glamorous, but small business loans are still the easiest way to get capital for a new business. 

You’ll be challenged to innovate

Reconciled is, not surprisingly, heavily connected to QuickBooks. After all, we’re QuickBooks ProAdvisors, and we offer QuickBooks support. 

But QuickBooks integrates with hundreds of other apps. That means anyone in the app development or technology space would have a hard time attending the conference without leaving with new ideas. 

This year’s event focused heavily on technological advances in AI, automation, and blockchain. While those aren’t areas Reconciled is currently looking to develop, understanding the future of our industry concerning these types of changes helps us prepare for what’s coming down the pike. 

For instance, the ability of AI to mine big data means that QuickBooks Online users are going to get better results from the program. Intuit has also released a virtual assistant within QuickBooks that answers questions. This is a fantastic development for QuickBooks users. 

The introduction of a virtual assistant also impacts companies like ours that guide businesses using QuickBooks. As the QuickBooks assistant improves, it may be able to answer questions faster than we can. 

But I didn’t walk away from QuickBooks Connect feeling hopeless about our future. Instead, I felt inspired. These changes mean we have an exciting challenge ahead of us. We have to learn ways to provide more and better value to our customers. We have to improve what we’re offering, and that’s the part of a business that makes being an entrepreneur so exciting. 

Staying engaged in the entrepreneurial community that QuickBooks is fostering helps me understand where the industry is going so I can innovate and stay ahead of the game.