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 4 Recap

Posted by Matt Raebel on Jun 21, 2024 3:00:00 PM

The final day of Scaling New Heights is always bittersweet. Although attendees and speakers alike would soon return to their normal routines, the day’s events were no less exciting, inspiring, and insightful.

Morning presentation on the main stage

Joe Woodard greeted the attendees of the final day’s main stage presentations by highlighting the Woodard Top 50 Accounting Services Practice Awards and announcing that nominations for the 2025 awards would open in Fall 2024. 

Maanoj Shah

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First up, Woodard welcomed Maanoj Shah of FinSmart to the stage.

Shah’s talk was about breaking boundaries—national boundaries, corporate boundaries, and the boundaries of one’s firm’s capabilities. Specifically, he talked about how firms of all sizes can benefit from outsourcing services.

Shah stated that in order to grow, accounting firms need to manage client relationships, keep their client’s books airtight, and maintain data security while minimizing costs. He said that outsourcing provides solutions to all of these.

He explained that to accomplish these aims, accounting firms sometimes need bandwidth and expertise that they don’t always have in-house. He displayed data from The Wall Street Journal showing that more than 300,000 accountants and auditors have left the profession, contributing to a talent crunch.

To illustrate his point, he gave a hypothetical example. “Say you go out on Monday, and your client calls you: ‘Hey John, I got your books, but I think there’s something broken.’ And then…instead of consulting, instead of doing client relationships, you’re back to accounting.”

Shah acknowledged that outsourcing can be controversial, causing teams justifiable anxiety about the security of their jobs and those of their colleagues. “Any offshoring, any use of AI, any outsourcing—they will be triggered,” he said.

Shah stressed the importance of transparency with employees. He said accounting firms can outsource back-office roles—benefiting from increased efficiency—while keeping departments like sales and marketing in-house without causing culture clashes, time zone-related conflicts, or communication issues.

Nicole Davis

(Content warning: suicide)

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The final keynote speaker of the show was Nicole Davis, who did not come onstage alone but with a choir consisting of several speakers who performed thirty seconds of one of Davis’ favorite songs, William Murphy’s “Something God.”

“I cannot share my story without sharing my faith,” Davis said. “If you do not believe in God, that is okay.”

Davis began telling her story by describing a vivid, bleak scene in which she was standing on the edge of a cliff, looking down, ready to end her own life. “That’s where I was,” she said.

She explained that a clinical specialist told her at a point early in her career that she was in danger of “suicide by starvation." She told the crowd that at this point in her life, she weighed just over 70 pounds.

“I thought everybody had suicidal thoughts,” she said. She told the crowd that she hated feeling or appearing vulnerable, that it felt like “weakness.” So she hid her feelings while she went about doing the things she loved with the people she loved—dealing with the day-to-day challenges of her dream job and helping take care of her new husband’s children.

Eventually, she said, her health problems forced her to quit her job and move back home with her parents in Georgia, where her husband and kids eventually followed. “There were times when we had only a few dollars to our name,” Davis said. “But mentally, I was doing better.”

Despite her struggles, Davis’ story ended in triumph. With the support of her family, Davis eventually decided to open her own firm, Butler-Davis Tax & Accounting. Although she encountered obstacles in gaining new clients at first, she and her team decided to “super serve” the clients they already had, building solid relationships and establishing their reputation. According to Davis, the firm became to her “a really great next dream job.”

The choir performed the excerpt of “Something God” once again just before the talk ended:

Something good…is about to happen…”

Davis brought the audience back to where they started, the edge of the same cliff—but this time, she said she was not looking down, but up, as her spirit leaped “at the beauty of nature and knowing that my life is worth living.

“This is me dominating.”

Davis' talk ended with a standing ovation from her audience.

Closing talk

Joe Woodard took the stage one final time to close out the day’s main stage performance. He commended the boldness of Davis’ talk before beginning his own discussion about the importance of boldness, reiterating presentations earlier in the event about taking disruptions and turning them into opportunities to show leadership by giving direction and showing courage.

“We have to finish it now, at this moment, with the final piece of the story,” he said.

He explained that leaders must choose what to manage wisely, focusing on one thing at a time, and maintaining the correct mindset, among other things. He also went over a number of roadblocks that tend to get in the way of providing bold leadership, most of which were psychological—procrastination, hyperanalysis, and the desire to “rescue” others from themselves, to name a few.

“Accept the things you cannot change,” he said. “Guilt, regret, and remorse are the punishment of ourselves for our past failures; the inoculator of guilt, regret, and remorse is forgiveness.”

Woodard then told the story of a criminal who drunkenly stole and damaged his car in the past. Facing jail time and tremendous financial setbacks that would follow them for the rest of their life, Woodard decided not to seek financial recompense from the perpetrator. He talked about how forgiving the thief freed him from the feelings of grief and anger the incident had caused him. “It’s easier to forgive someone who stole your car than to forgive yourself,” he said.

Announcements

Before Woodard left the stage, he had a couple of announcements to make, including the theme of Scaling New Heights 2025, which was once again inspired by Star Trek.

“If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know that Kirk isn’t the only captain and—I’m gonna get controversial here—he isn’t the best captain. Picard is.”

Editor’s note: Woodard’s statement is objectively correct.

“There’s something that Picard always does on the show,” he continued. “He holds his hand up just like this and says, ‘Make it so.’” This line, he said, would be next year’s theme.

Scaling New Heights 2025 keynote speakers

Woodard then announced the keynote speakers for next year’s show, starting with someone who had long inspired and helped him grow his business. “Nobody has changed my life more than David Allen,” he said. “So I thought, ‘Why not invite him to come?’ So he’s coming.”

Allen is a respected business consultant and author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity and many other books and resources. He is considered a global leader in personal and organizational productivity and has been named one of Forbes’ “Top Five Executive Coaches” in the U.S., as well as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers” by Fast Company.

The second speaker he announced is an Olympic champion who has broken several records for the high jump. “Her name is Chaunté Lowe, and she has made it so,” he said.

He then played a video demonstrating Lowe’s inspiring story, beginning with her idolizing American Olympian Florence Griffith Joyner (AKA "Flo-Jo"), surviving a childhood in an abusive household, and eventually winning a full scholarship to the Georgia Institute of Technology. Lowe eventually competed in the Olympics and won two bronze and one silver medal.

The video turned dark when it began telling of Lowe’s greatest challenge yet. Discovering she had breast cancer, Lowe fought through chemotherapy, crippling depression, and multiple surgeries to continue her intensive training regimen, successfully making it to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics—not just to win medals but to inspire her fans and raise awareness of breast cancer.

“Ask yourself,” Chaunté’s voiceover said, “how can we raise the bar from here?”

Scaling New Heights Plus

Before the presentation ended, Woodard announced that Scaling New Heights 2025 will introduce Scaling New Heights Plus, a premium option for attendees that includes access to recordings of all of the show’s sessions, access to a work lounge for taking breaks or getting a little work done, and more.

See you next year

audio-board-face

As with all good things, the show eventually came to an end. Exhibitors broke down booths, audio-visual technicians packed away their equipment, dear friends and colleagues hugged and said, “See you next year,” and Scaling New Heights 2024 concluded.

Scaling New Heights 2024 was the most well-attended year in the show’s history. It was the culmination of months of hard work from the core Woodard team and event staff alike.

Registration for next year’s show is now live, so if you plan on attending…click here to Make It So!

Topics: Scaling New Heights


 

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