Banner image for Scaling New Heights 2024, the premier accounting technology conference in the United States. The image features the conference theme and dates.

Scaling New Heights 2024: Day 1 Recap

Posted by Matt Raebel on Jun 17, 2024 1:56:23 PM

The Scaling New Heights 2024 conference opened up on the morning of Sunday, June 16, 2024, to more than 1,800 attendees—many of whom were first-timers.

For most, the event is a chance to learn about new tech or cutting-edge accounting, bookkeeping, and business management practices. Woodard member Amanda Holbrook, financial operations manager of Supporting Strategies, said she was excited about the sessions and vendor hall exhibits offered at the show. “Maybe I can learn something new,” she said. “New tips, tricks, strategies…anything that can help me be better for my clients.”

Many come for the sessions, the tech, and the networking opportunities—but for returning attendees, Scaling New Heights is a place where client accounting service (CAS) professionals can meet with friends and colleagues they don’t often get to see anywhere else. “I’m really excited about meeting my colleagues that I’ve known for years,” said Jeff Siegel, president of Siegel Solutions. “Meeting with them and kind of chatting and figuring out what they’re doing in their business…it’s kind of a homecoming.”

New Attendee Orientation and Practice Advancement Breakfast

Joe Woodard personally hosted the first two presentations of the day: the New Attendee Orientation and the show’s Annual Practice Advancement Breakfast. 

At the New Attendee Orientation, Woodard gave attendees a crash course on the basics of Scaling New Heights—how to use the event’s app, what to expect from the presentations, and what to expect from other attendees.

“This is a safe space,” Woodard said. “You can share your thoughts here…you can even share your vulnerabilities; you can say things like, ‘I’m afraid of this quantum computing thing,’ and nobody will attack you.” 

Following his introduction, new attendees at the orientation spent the rest of the session speaking with one another about the event. Each table included at least one “Scholar”—Woodard Members who volunteered to help guide new attendees, providing a point of contact and a social anchor. 

All Scholars are multiple-year veterans of Scaling New Heights who are passionate about the Woodard Community. “This is year eight for me,” said Debbi Allison, Woodard Member and Scholar. “I volunteer to help out the newbies because I wish someone had been there for me…I can be there for them and give them that guidance and just be a happy face so they know at least one person.”

“This is my 12th year attending [Scaling New Heights],” said Woodard Scholar Bernadette Amos. “I love the community. It’s a great community…I’m a solo, so being able to interact with these other people and help some people resolve problems that they’ve been facing…it’s just fun for me.”

After the orientation and a short meal break, Woodard gave a presentation on redefining CAS practices. He emphasized the need to break out of the traditional mindset of providing accounting and bookkeeping practices, thinking about what other services CAS professionals can offer their clients, and reconsidering everything from controllership to back office processes, financial planning and analysis, and more. 

He also stressed that CAS providers should recognize the complexity of their work and thus consider re-evaluating their services' real value, not giving them away for free.


Talks and training

Following a short networking break, the conference completely opened up. Whether they were newer accounting professionals seeking CPE credits or seasoned masters looking to stay ahead of the curve, thousands of attendees began filing into breakout rooms to listen to talks by leading industry experts and receive critical training in the latest financial technology solutions. 

Here is a taste of some of the talks from Sunday’s show:

The Ethics of Sci-Fi

High Rock Founder Liz Mason hosted a fascinating discussion in her hour-long noon session about the intersection of leadership, business, technology…and Star Trek.

Mason argued that the various iterations of the beloved Sci-Fi television setting provide ample sources of inspiration for business leaders and arguably have significant applications for business. 

For example, Star Trek includes several shows, all of which feature diverse casts of characters who represent different perspectives. Mason said that watching Star Trek was the first time she had seen a female character in a position of authority, an experience that inspired her.

She went over various examples of exemplary characters from the series who demonstrated aptitude in conflict resolution, diplomacy, and leadership. She also said that modern business leaders can learn from the show’s portrayal of the ethics of technology, arguing that we can learn a lot about the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI), automation, and even genetic engineering.

The topic was apropos given this year’s Scaling New Heights theme, “Boldly Go,” which is based on a famous line from the television show’s opening.

Quickbooks Online Clean-Up: Going Beyond the Basics

Unsurprisingly, several sessions at Scaling New Heights 2024 were (and will be, at time of writing) focused on Intuit QuickBooks. One of the first talks of the conference was hosted by Veronica Wasek, accomplished entrepreneur and founder of the award-winning women-led consulting and bookkeeping firm.

Wasek walked her audience through numerous pro strategies for utilizing the software platform, from bringing order to the chaos of messy balance sheets to untangling comingling nightmares. The presentation included amusing anecdotes about real-life (anonymous) horror stories as case studies and strategies for resolving similar cases should attendees find themselves in such positions in their own practices.


The Main Stage

Toward the end of the first day, Woodard took the stage once more to continue his discussion of the current state of CAS and how it will—and should—change. Yet an even more pressing matter needed to be settled before Woodard could talk business.

Taking a minute to recognize Father’s Day and all the fathers in the room, Woodard invited Practice Advancement Coach Lamont Nesbitt to the stage to settle, once and for all, who is the best “Dad Joke-Teller.” Each dad told two of their best dad jokes. When the dust settled, Nesbitt won the day with the truly eye-roll-inducing joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road, roll in the mud, and cross the road again? Because he was a DIRTY DOUBLE-CROSSER!”


As a triumphant Nesbitt left the stage, Woodard began his third presentation of the day, which built on his talk earlier that morning. He discussed a wide variety of topics, including the need for a mindset shift from traditional bookkeeping to comprehensive financial analysis and how CAS professionals must pivot to counter challenges posed by technology such as automated bots and AI. 

He brought to the stage Andrew Lassise, founder of Tech 4 Accountants, a Rightworks Company that specializes in technology and cyber security for accountants. Lassise discussed the importance of vigilance in the face of phishing attacks, the vulnerability of accounting firms to cyberattacks, and the need for effective cybersecurity practices and software.


Dr. Michio Kaku

Woodard welcomed the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Michio Kaku, to the stage as a truly brilliant scientist. As Dr. Kaku took the stage, he said, “Well, after that great introduction, I can’t wait to meet the speaker myself!”

After his comedic and humble intro, Dr. Kaku discussed a wide range of topics, from consciousness to quantum computing to AI and the applications and dangers of automated solutions like chatbots.

“A chatbot simply takes bits and pieces off the internet, splices them together, makes a copy, and makes it sound like a human…and of course, it sounds like a human; it was written by a human!”

He continued by arguing that while chatbots can be useful, they also lack a sense of right and wrong; they can spread lies, propaganda, and misinformation. They can impersonate specific individuals' faces, signatures, and even voices, should they be used irresponsibly or in bad faith.

He compared such technology to the duality of the bow and arrow: he pointed out that, while ancient humans discovered that you can use such tools to “create food from a distance,” they also figured out that you can also use it “to kill your enemies.”


Joe Woodard (left) and Dr. Michio Kaku (right). Photo by Joel Estrada.

Settling in

As night fell on the first day, attendees gathered to meet new contacts, swap stories with old friends, and prepare for the next few days of exhibitions, training, and presentations. 

Check out our Day Two recap for more coverage of Scaling New Heights 2024!

Topics: Scaling New Heights


Sign up and stay plugged into the education, news pieces and information relevant to you.

Subscribe to The Woodard Report today! 

Do you have questions about this article? Email us and let us know >