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Tools for MGMT: Episode 301
7 sleeps until BEEF and greetings from the UK
I’m not sure if the Substack algorithm boosted some of my back catalog (please don’t read those, very embarrassing & juvenile stuff in there…) but I have been experiencing an uptick in questions like: “where did the newsletter go?” or “did you go bankrupt?” or “can you send these beats to Zack?”
The answer to all of these is: “Absolutely.”
I moved to London a year ago
in pursuit of a more quiet life because of a job opportunity for my fiancée. 🥰 This is the subject of an essay for another day – but it has been a weird perch to observe the acceleration of the West vs. Russia, the end of zero interest rates, the collapse of FTX/SVB/CS, the death of a beloved monarch, a ~20% drop in the pound sterling, and three prime ministers. There is a palpable, underlying tension here in the UK where it feels like the ladders of opportunity are being pulled up (and indeed, they are). American exported culture reigns supreme… and many in the creative fields are counting the days until their next trip to New York/Miami/LA.
But all of that aside: I quite like it. It’s the best place I’ve lived by far. Guns N' Roses play Hyde Park on June 30th and I’ve got GA tickets. I run by the US Ambassador’s residence in (The) Regent’s Park several days a week, and am reminded that if I keep picking up the phone and sending these emails, that could be me one day (except in Denmark!).
I moved my company here, which wasn’t without hassle. Elixr Global Ltd. (Aside: did you know that financials for privately held businesses in the UK over a certain size are public data at this thing called Companies House?)
My clients have been incredibly understanding. No one has fired me yet because I’m eight timezones away from the action.
I can’t tell if I am getting better or worse at my job. But I am definitely becoming more comfortable with the things that I can’t control, picking and choosing my spots to add value, and staying opportunistic. I am more convinced than ever that talent is real. Hard work remains important… but there are people that really have it. And I’m grateful to know and work closely with a few of them.
And more on that second-to-last point: London is a long way from Los Angeles. While I’ve done my best to leave an indelible impression on some people, everyone is busy and focused on what is in front of their face. And I don’t blame them! But I’ve gotta stay relevant and visible somehow.
I’m not clever enough for Twitter. I have been getting objectively hotter, but unfortunately just got banned from Instagram. So in fact, this newsletter may be my only hope. Know that I’m glad to be writing to you again, and I’m humbled by your readership!
As always, this is the vision:
Okay – on to some niche ACCOUNTING & BUSINESS MANAGEMENT stuff that will be of interest to maybe 15% of you... Hit me back if it is please! 🙏
Tax Season Artificial Intelligence Observations:
My #1 AI use case so far: I've had a tab of ChatGPT open for the majority of tax season. Googling for answers to Quickbooks questions is indeed its own circle of hell, typically leading you to the Intuit Support Community which is filled with irritable accountants, outdated software versions, and problems that never seem to match yours. With ChatGPT, I can paste in the Chart of Accounts for a specific client, describe precisely what I'm trying to solve or reconcile, and ChatGPT will walk me through how to do it.
I've been using Zapier for a number of business management functions – such as booking client work, creating journal entries to back out agency and management commissions, generating Accountable Plan reimbursements, and creating invoices. With last week’s announcement of ChatGPT plugins, it looks like I'm a fortnight away from being able to prompt Zapier directly from ChatGPT, and have it do exactly what I want within Quickbooks.
One trend I've seen in the last year or so are bookkeeping SaaS tools that don't rely on Quickbooks or Xero at all, but instead have you connect all your bank and credit cards via Plaid, and then code transactions directly on their platform. I've used a few of them so far including: Kick ($99/mo), Fincent ($199/mo), and Better Bookkeeping ($1000/mo!). This is great in theory... but this approach has significant limitations that hinder even a basic entertainment business: lacking functionality for invoicing, clearly handling reimbursements, and being able to journal out commissions.
One company I am watching closely is Finaloop. They emphasize highly automated, realtime bookkeeping for e-commerce brands. It feels like something like this could soon exist for entertainment companies and service-based businesses. Please let me know if you can introduce me to anyone who works here.
All of this to say: I suspect that the 5% of gross billing structure for business management firms is not going to be defensible for much longer. Obviously, Hollywood commission structures persist and are considered sacred by many, propped up by hegemonies like City National Bank and their proprietary software... but change is afoot. ChatGPT is online. And I know I'm not the only manager paying attention.
So which parts of the job are not going to be fully commoditized and automated in the next few months? I need to be doing those…
Have a great weekend, and be sure to watch BEEF next Friday 4/6. Written and produced by Alex Russell! How about that!