Jess Scheer is an award-winning business reporter and editor focusing on the intersection of accounting and technology. He began covering the accounting profession in the late 1990s as the editor of Public Accounting Report, which at the time was the largest circulation newsletter focused on the profession. In his role at Accountex, Jess is responsible for Accountex’s blog, which attracts more than 100,000 views per month and its trade show content.
Below is an edited version of our interview.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do for Accountex?
I’m a business reporter by trade. For Accountex, I’m taking that journalism background and marrying it with my experience sort of at the intersection between accounting firms and technology. So my role is twofold. One, running what we believe to be one of the largest blogs and largest online communities of accounting firm technology buyers and sellers, we average about 100,000 viewers per month. And then also responsible for the speakers at our trade show every year. So we’ve got a number of great speakers we’re looking forward to learning from next couple weeks!
Why do you do what you do?
In my early days as a business reporter, one of the heroes that I talked to was a guy named Greg Biggs, who was an accountant and he audited the city government and he was a watchdog.
And in my eyes, he was the ultimate underdog. A guy who kept tabs on taxpayer money when no one else, including city government officials who would later go to jail, we’re doing. And that inspired me to keep an eye out for accountants to help them. And at the same time have also been passionate about technology. My background is also as a former consultant seeing the power that technology can play to enable greater efficiencies and effectiveness within organizations. And so the being able to marry the two, to be able to work with other Greg Biggs of the world, other CPAs as well as help connect them with ways that can help them do their jobs even better, is what makes me passionate and gets me going with vigor in the morning.
Tell me a little bit more about this year Accountex show coming up in Boston next week. Why is it different from the other accounting shows out there?
Excellent question. There are, no doubt, other places where folks could go, but here’s where we’re excitingly different. Not a knock on trade shows, some of my best friends have user group conferences. At each one of those, you’re limited just to understand what products fall within the ecosystem of that one company. Or if you’re at a say, some of the associations like ACPA shows you’re dealing with a universe of rather large organizations, primarily. What’s unique about Accountex, both in the US and the UK is that one, we’re agnostic so we, it’s a one-stop shop for firm leaders who are trying to get a better understanding of what technology is out there, both in terms of what they’re using and might want to buy next. But also just because you’re a Sage shop, you might have a customer that uses a different product and so you can get educated on those other products as well and figure out which makes the most sense.
The other thing that I think is radically different from the feel, the vibe you’ll get at Accountex is that the others are conferences and we’re a trade show and that’s not just a semantical difference, but I think a real, very real difference in terms of what you’re going to experience. Typically what you would see at a conference is it’s focused primarily on the educational sessions, the breakout sessions. And then occasionally you’ll come back to the expo floor as a result of coffee or, or cocktail receptions and you may stumble across some vendors. What we find is that our community is really focused on the technology side and understanding and meeting with vendors to understand either what they are looking to budget for next year, or what they’re actively trying to buy this year or they need to know to better educate their customers going forward.
And so the focus is really on the expo floor. That being said, we will absolutely have the kinds of educational sessions that folks have come to us in the past to receive, but one, they’re in rooms around the trade show floor and the best sessions are going to be repeated. So there’s never that ebb and flow of everyone’s on the trade show floor during cocktail receptions and it’s a ghost town when educational sessions are going on. Our experience both at Accountex UK, which the Accountex US show was modeled after, as well as the other trade shows that our parent company diversified does all year round, is that it’s really about the trade show floor. The educational sessions also make it worthwhile. The goal is attendees can earn 23 CPs in just a couple of days, and for the most part, registration’s free, which makes capturing the CPs incredibly cost effective but the focus is much more on that buyer-seller experience than it is on strictly the educational experience and the vendor experience being an afterthought.
Great. And we’ll put a link actually to the registration site in the notes of today’s podcast and as someone who’s actually spoken at the Accountex in the UK as well, I can tell you from a speaker standpoint, it’s a very different experience. Jess, we have an exit question we ask all of our guests and that is who is a hero of yours and why are they a hero?
Well, I mentioned a gentleman by the name of Greg Biggs who was a small two-person CPA shop in the city of Atlanta at a time when there was a significant financial malfeasance, led to the mayor of Atlanta, eventually serving prison time, he was the only one on the outside screaming. Everyone on the inside was either ignorant or covering up and he was standing firm on this is his role as the only advocate that the public has. And that left an incredible impression on me in terms of the role that accountants played, you know, they are, in terms of their audit role, they are, they are an advocate for the public and also as financial advisers, they have incredible expertise and to be able to continue to serve small to midsize accountants like the Greg Briggs of the world is my privilege and honor.