As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Zorc.
As Founder and CEO of Accounting Seed, tech entrepreneur, ForbesBooks author, and CPA for 20+ years, Tony Zorc embodies iconoclasm, the idea of challenging the prescribed way of doing things and coming up with a better, more innovative solution. Accounting Seed’s success with over 15,000 users stems from Tony’s vision for using technology to create better business in a way that’s never been done before. A father, leader, person of faith, and avid CrossFitter, Tony brings a rare mix of personal and professional experience to the table and seeks to inspire other leaders to create innovation in places where innovation is scarce. Learn more about Tony’s journey and read his resources for leaders at www.tonyzorc.com.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my company, Accounting Seed (the first accounting platform), in 2008 out of frustration with accounting technology. Prior to starting Accounting Seed I held many different positions in accounting and software implementation, but found myself constantly disappointed with the options available to me and my clients. I soon came across Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM solution, and was really impressed with their approach to the front office providing a toolset that companies could use to build a system around their own processes (sales, customer support and management, etc) and thought, “Man, I wish there was something like this for accounting.” And that was where the birth of Accounting Seed started — it truly began from me challenging the notion that accounting was some far off activity that no one in the business could really understand. When designing Accounting Seed, what I really wanted was a solution that was connected to all parts of the business, which is why Accounting Seed is an open platform that can work with other business solutions for one source of truth.
Creating new things and finding a better way is my true passion — it’s what I’ve always aspired to do, even when I competed in high school gymnastics at the national level. I was always looking for a way to level up and succeed in a way that’s never been done before…not out of dis-satisfaction with my circumstances but because I believed deeply that a better way always existed. It’s what drove me to create Accounting Seed and it’s what is driving me today as an author and thought leader.
Outside of being an entrepreneur, CEO, and author, I’m husband to my wonderful wife of 12 years, father to three amazing daughters, an avid Crossfitter and person of faith. I’m able to do everything I’m doing and serve those around me because of the support of my family and friends!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Here’s a funny one for you! I almost hired my landscaper as my first sales person — someone with zero sales experience. I’m not sure what I was thinking, because at the time I didn’t have the right experience myself or the infrastructure in place to be able to train this person properly. And let me just say, it didn’t work out and that’s on me!
What I learned: I was 10 years ahead of myself and overestimated what I could do at the time. It wasn’t a bad idea to shoot for something new and honestly, I would hire him now. But it reminded me to take more time to reflect on my ideas before executing them. And, to make sure I had other necessary assets and support in place to make my ideas come to fruition.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
In my opinion, the best business book out there, one that I consider to be the “Bible” for entrepreneurs, is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Every entrepreneur should read it and re-read it. It’s the science behind success and, in a lot of ways, spurred my curiosity in business, which led to the creation of the Iconoclast Formula. I read this book whenever I’m feeling lost or find myself struggling with a particular business/management situation. I always joke and say that Hill’s book is the Bible and my book, Iconoclasm, is one of the sermons! The book truly inspired me to pursue my dream and gave me an outline for how to do so. I recommend it to every aspiring entrepreneur!
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
I really went into starting Accounting Seed as a mission-driven entrepreneur. I wanted to find a better way to serve my clients that were really frustrated with their current circumstances and options. I believe there are three major types of entrepreneurs and I discuss them as well in my book. My vision was and always has been to be the leading accounting solution for growing businesses. That’s why Accounting Seed was created to be flexible, customizable, and scalable, so that business owners don’t have to change solutions as they grow and change.
This vision stays with me as I look to the future and was the nudge that pushed me to write Iconoclasm. In the same way I saw necessary change in the business world, I’ve seen necessary change within our society as a result of the pandemic. My hope is that my push for real change through the Iconoclast Formula — Challenge, Design, Execute — will help others thrive in business and in life in this new era we are in.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
The Iconoclast Formula: Challenge, Design, Execute. This formula is the foundation of my book and it’s what led me to create Accounting Seed to begin with. I refer back to it when I need to make a change in my business or see a new opportunity, and in my personal life. Applying this formula at every step of my business is what spurred rapid growth and continues to help me see the good when things may look bleak. It reminds me to be creative and to never stop looking for the golden ticket!
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Before I answer this, I first have to say that my heart goes out to those that have really suffered and experienced loss during this time. I never thought anything like this would happen, at least not in my lifetime.
I feel humbled and thankful that Accounting Seed survived the pandemic. I will never stop being thankful for the magnitude of that. And, in fact, we’ve done extremely well given the times because we are a technology company. I know you asked me about personal challenges, but my business is very personal to me. One of my first thoughts when this pandemic hit was what would happen to the business and how would it impact my family? So, I’m extremely grateful for the ability to be in business right now.
On a more personal level, my family has certainly grieved the loss of face-to-face connections with those we love, missing events, canceling important life events, etc. Adjusting to a virtual world wasn’t easy, as I’m sure many others will agree. I miss being with people and all the goodness that comes from that.
To get through it? Prayer and meditation has been big for me. It’s allowed me to not only give prayers to those that are in more need than myself, BUT it’s also allowed me to focus my attention to areas of my life that have needed help. My family is stronger than ever. I’ve spent so much time with my wife and children, and I’ve loved it. I am closer to them and know them more intimately — that’s a beautiful thing.
I’ve also tapped into my creative side and used this time to write my book and really take my time with it. And that’s my biggest encouragement to those struggling. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do because of the pandemic. Count your blessings because life is too short.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Accounting Seed has done well during the pandemic and I’m beyond thankful for that. We adapted quickly and put the customer first. Truly, we are fortunate to be in the tech industry during a time like this.
There are two things that have been particularly challenging during the pandemic.
First, establishing culture and increasing employee satisfaction. Prior to the pandemic, our entire team was in the office, 9–5, with a few employees here and there that lived outside of Maryland. We had to quickly shift to remote work, like many other businesses, and we were successful…but, I still had trouble properly establishing our community and culture. How do you do that when you’re so used to seeing everyone face-to-face on a daily basis, right? We had to get creative with our team building — which meant doing more of it and through virtual means. From virtual coffee breaks to a company talent show, I feel as if we have found the right way to get people involved, but it continues to be a challenge I, and our managers, work at everyday.
Second, managing a team in a virtual world. We’ve now hired team members from across the globe, and it’s really opened my eyes to what it means to be a manager, where my limitations are, and when to delegate to others. We’ve had to onboard employees via Zoom, which can be tricky. But I’ve found that if I have the right documentation, the right staff involved, and the right attitude, it can be a seamless experience to manage and bring on new employees during such a difficult time.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I talk about this a lot in my book. I truly believe we as a society suffered a massive panic attack from this pandemic. We had no course of action to take and we were not prepared for this. It’s because of this that people turned to the media for information, only to find messages of controversy and often blindly believed everything that was said. The advice I gave to those around me was this: think critically. Challenge yourself to find the truth. For example, don’t just watch FOX news or CNN. Seek out the opposite view, listen to both sides, and look for the facts in the fluff to make an information decision. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself in constant fear and anxiety.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
One of the biggest opportunities is the growth of technology. No longer are we pushing off moving to cloud technologies. Now, we are adopting them and developing more — in our personal lives and in business.
Additionally, e-commerce is going to accelerate and inspire more niche experiences. What this does is create opportunities for new businesses, more relevant experiences, and a stronger economy.
Lastly, I really think events and travel will hit a huge rebound. We are starting to see some of this already, but the pandemic reminded us of how much we value and rely on in-person experiences. It’s going to make a BOOM and people will travel more than they ever have before. I’m truly excited to see what is to come!
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
Our use of technology is one major change. The pandemic has not necessarily created new technologies. Rather, it’s increased adoption. Think of Zoom, FaceTime, online shopping, etc. All of these technologies we were forced to use to keep business moving and relationships intact. And, if you didn’t you may have been left in the dust or with an overwhelming sense of loneliness. While face-to-face interactions and business practices will not be fully replaced (yet), I think it’s safe to say our comfortability and use of technology for virtual experiences will only continue to grow.
Additionally, I think COVID-19 has really caused many of us to ask ourselves, ‘Why am I doing (insert whatever here) in this way?” Why am I blindly believing in someone’s idea without doing my own research? Why am I communicating more over text than on the phone? Why, Why, Why? And to me, this is a beautiful thing and the spark we need for real societal change…for real hope in a better future! We must ask ourselves ‘Why” before continuing any task, habit, belief, etc. This helps us to have real conversations with each other about issues that matter. My hope, and the premise of my book, is that we keep challenging ourselves and those around us as a way to discover what better world is out there for us.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
To be honest, I’m still running through a lot of plans and ideas in my head. There is so much opportunity that can come from this and I’m taking time to find the good here for my business and my employees.
One of the first things I plan to do is invest in my people. Get them together in person when it’s safe to do so, based on what makes economic sense and what is best for each individual. I plan to invest in hiring more people, the right people, to build up our culture. One of the things I’ve really taken hold of since the pandemic is finding talent out of state and tapping into a completely new market of people. It’s been really exciting to grow in that way and I plan to do more of it in 2021.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
My one piece of advice would be to not underestimate the power of people during this time. Businesses fail but can be rebuilt because of the right people. Take this time to not only look at how your business can function in this new era, but also who are the people that you want beside you during that process.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have a few quotes that I live by and have taught me tons over the years!
The most dangerous phrase in the human language is, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.
All of these quotes have reminded me to: believe in the impossible, have multiple plans/courses of actions, and approach every opportunity with a positive mindset. I believe these are key things to being a great leader, business owner, and member of society,
How can our readers further follow your work?do to rebuild and grow
Find me on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram and check out my site for more content, www.tonyzorc.com.