Meet one of today’s leaders in the accounting software world, Jennifer Warawa. As the Vice President, Partner Programs and Channel Sales at Sage North America, Jennifer has a wealth of experience working with accounting professionals. Enjoy this insightful, educational and entertaining Q&A…
Q: The world of accounting marketing has obviously changed dramatically in recent years. What has surprised you in terms of what public accounting firms have done (or not done)–both positively and negatively?
A: Every year we do a membership study for the Sage Accountants Network and when we ask accountants what keeps them up at night, the #1 response for many years now is how they can get new clients. What I find very interesting is that although this continues to be a top challenge, we still haven’t seen the profession really change their approach to how they get new clients. In fact, I spend a great deal of time visiting accountants all over North America and quite often when I ask about their marketing strategy, I find they often don’t have one at all. In our recent research of U.S. accounting firms, 65% say they actually don’t even have a website. In order to grow their firms and attract new clients, there will need to be a shift in the profession’s approach to marketing which needs to include embracing new marketing methodologies such as digital marketing and social media. On a positive note, we are starting to see more and more of the “next gen” mindset emerging in public accounting. I believe next gen is unrelated to age but is more in how someone embraces change and new ideas. We’re seeing professionals of all different ages step up with a great deal of passion, ready to transform their firms, and we love working with those individuals as they create their new future.
Q: If you had to jump on a time machine and go forward 20 years, what would you tell CPAs?
A: Innovation isn’t about technology alone. Change is happening at an unprecedented rate and we don’t see any signs of it slowing down in the near future. Few people have taken time to really think about what “being innovative” means to their firm or business. Many view innovation as technology alone but I challenge that thinking because I believe innovation in how you run your business or firm is equally as important. From the services you offer, to your customer and employee strategies, to how you brand yourself; this all should be thought of as innovation. If a firm sees picking up the latest and greatest technology as their key to being innovative, they are missing a large component in their future success.
Q: How has your role at Sage evolved over the last couple of years?
A: When I started with Sage almost five and a half years ago, I was solely focused on the Canadian market and about three years ago added the U.S. accountant business to my responsibilities which has made for a very exciting time in my career. I love the North American outlook and there are so many learnings each market can take away from the other.
Overall, I think my role has evolved and changed as Sage itself has evolved and changed. Over the last few years Sage has become increasingly focused on its core solutions, has made some tough but necessary decisions, and has restructured its product names and focus to a unified Sage brand. All of these changes require everyone at Sage to reinvent ourselves in many ways and it keeps us learning, growing, and challenging the status quo. I love it!
Q: What have been some of the key things you’ve learned throughout your career? What might you do differently if you had it do to all over again?
A: Wow – that’s a big question!
First, I would say that sometimes your biggest roadblock is your own opinion. You think you know something but quite often, it’s really just your perspective, and the ability to be able to set your opinion aside and be open to new ideas and alternate solutions is critical to success.
Second, the outcome is always proportionate to the effort you put in and nothing good just falls in your lap. There is no replacement for hard work, commitment, and dedication.
Third, it’s all about the people. It goes back to that saying that no one will remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel. Treating people with respect and maintaining your integrity are so important through all circumstances and situations.
As far as what I’d do differently, I can honestly say nothing immediately comes to mind. I grew up with entrepreneurial parents who owned their own businesses and learned many lessons about business before I even learned how to drive. I then spent a wonderful (and adventurous) 12 years starting, growing, and then selling a small business. Entrepreneurship taught me an incredible amount – lessons I still use every day. Now I am working for a global company with endless opportunities. I have been very fortunate!
Q: You travel a lot. How about sharing an interesting travel story?
A: There is certainly no shortage of interesting travel stories – I think I have one from almost every week I’ve spent on the road! One of the most memorable was when I was traveling to Vancouver from Atlanta with a connection in Seattle. Our flight out of Atlanta was delayed and as a result, I missed my connection which happened to be the last flight of the day. The airline put us up in a hotel in Seattle and after a very long day of travel, I arrived at the hotel just after 1:00 am. There was a lady on my flight that was on the same shuttle bus as I was and when we arrived at the hotel she was informed she had mistakenly gone to the wrong hotel and was told to go back to the airport and catch a different shuttle bus to the correct hotel. She almost started crying realizing she would get minimal sleep as it was literally the middle of the night and her new flight was before 7:00 am. I felt her pain and after confirming my room had two beds, I offered her my second bed which she gratefully accepted. The funny part is as we were lying there dozing off to sleep, she quietly asks “Um… what is your name?” I was happy to wake up after my brief 3.5 hour “nap” and see that my purse had not disappeared!
Q: Outside of your work duties, what else do you like to do? How do you spend your down time?
A: I am married and with all the travel I do, when I finally get some down time it’s great to just hang out with my husband and our “fur babies” and stay relatively close to home. I love reading, writing (I have various blogs I contribute to), and just getting outside. I have been told I am “solar powered” and it’s true – I love being outside on sunny days!
Q: What’s in the future for Jennifer Warawa?
A: The future is truly an endless list of opportunities. Five years ago if you would have told me I’d move from my small, hometown of Kelowna, BC, Canada to Atlanta, GA I would have laughed and wondered how on earth that would happen, but here I am. It proved to me that if you’re open, there are all kinds of opportunities out there and the future is limitless (and excitingly unknown!).
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