Welcome to the SMB Tech Innovators Podcast, powered by Gusto, where we explore the intersection of financial services and vertical SaaS strategy and discuss how software combats the rising complexity of running a business. In this episode with JP Durrios, CEO at Bench Accounting, we discuss how partnerships with vertical SaaS accountech solutions and keeping a human element to the customer experience give you an edge over your competition.
- What makes Bench different within its crowded competitor space?
- Horizontal platforms versus vertical platforms.
- Key factors that drive product evolution.
- How automation creates new opportunities for CPAs.
- Advice for other leaders moving into new roles and changing leadership styles.
From Tech Veteran to Bench CEO: A Journey of Scaling Startups and Disrupting Markets
JP is an experienced professional with 20 years in the tech industry and has played a vital role in helping startups scale and disrupt their markets. His role at ServiceTitan exposed him to the underserved small business market. About a year and a half ago, he joined Bench as VP, excited to drive the company’s growth during the entrepreneurial revival. As CEO, JP values clear communication and building a diverse team to create daily value. His journey reflects a commitment to empowering entrepreneurs and embracing AI’s transformative potential, positioning Bench for a future marked by market partnerships and technological advancements.
Understanding Bench: Differentiating in the Crowded Accounting Tech Space
Bench’s primary focus revolves around the customers. They often ventured into entrepreneurship to pursue their passions rather than to become financial experts. They turn to Bench because they find finance to be a daunting aspect of their business. Managing finances consumes a significant portion of their time, and the fear of making costly mistakes looms large.
Bench’s mission is to empower every business owner with the tools and insights to thrive through a seamless platform that provides financial understanding and peace of mind.
Two recurring themes echo through the feedback from Bench’s clientele.
- Its unique blend of cutting-edge technology and personalized human services liberates entrepreneurs from countless hours spent on financial tasks. This newfound time allows entrepreneurs to redirect their focus toward family and business growth.
- Offering something invaluable – the confidence and peace of mind that stem from a supportive partnership. The combination of technology and human expertise that Bench provides is a clear differentiator, one that outshines DIY solutions. The ability to interact with real humans through the app, available to address queries and concerns, is a hallmark of Bench’s service.
Assessing Competition in Vertical SaaS: Bench’s Accountech Strategy and Small Business Mission
The integration of Bench’s services with other apps and core solutions is not viewed as a competition but rather a valuable partnership opportunity. The aim is to create added value for their shared customers. Recognizing that their customers actively engage with various applications to manage their businesses, JP highlights the significance of bookkeeping in comprehending business performance.
Bookkeeping goes beyond mere compliance; it provides essential insights into running a business effectively. These insights require specialized expertise that vertical SaaS providers may not prioritize as it falls outside their core functionalities, which are focused on business operations.
Driving Bench’s Product Evolution
JP emphasizes the importance of a quick response to the evolving market demands. Bench introduced embedded APIs in the previous year, aligning with the observed shift in the landscape, particularly among vertical SaaS and fintech companies. This shift towards embedded fintech is gaining momentum, driven by a growing recognition of the benefits it offers.
There is a natural progression of this momentum: identifying a dependable partner, testing the integration, and witnessing its value creation. Once the value is evident, the logical course of action is to further invest in and enhance these partnerships. This strategic approach allows companies to remain agile and responsive to market dynamics, ultimately serving the evolving needs of their customers more effectively.
Navigating the Role of Embedded Partnerships
JP categorizes partner relationships into stages of maturity, recognizing that not every partner may possess equal resources or capabilities. In the marketplace, there exists a diverse array of potential partners with varying strengths and capacities.
The initial stage of partnership often begins with a referral model. However, he points out that Bench has experienced success in this arena due to the strong alignment between its product and market demands, as well as the value it offers to partners and clients.
As partnerships prove mutually beneficial and demonstrate a strong fit, they evolve swiftly towards a more integrated model, where Bench provides partners with APIs and embedded solutions. This progression allows for deeper collaboration and an even more seamless experience for all parties involved.
A Glimpse into the Next Three to Five Years for CPAs
Accountants and CPAs have the chance to embrace AI. This technology allows them to redirect their focus and efforts toward higher-impact activities, such as advisory services. With AI handling repetitive and labor-intensive tasks, CPAs can allocate more time to become more proficient in advisory roles. This shift presents an exciting prospect for those in the accounting field, provided they adopt the right mindset.
Accounting firms that have already partnered with Bench are beginning to experience the tangible benefits of this evolving model. It’s a testament to the positive impact AI can have on the industry and how embracing these changes can lead to enhanced productivity and service quality.
The CEO Transition: Adapting Leadership Style and Career Insights from JP
From a broader perspective, JP reflects on the heightened expectations that come with being the CEO. He underscores the importance of having a clear vision for the company and the ability to inspire and align the team in the same direction. As the CEO of a larger organization like Bench, he emphasizes the critical role of careful and transparent communication. In this role, every word and action can have a significant impact, and JP acknowledges the need for extra mindfulness.
On a personal note, JP shares his commitment to fostering diversity within his team at Bench. This strategic choice has resulted in a talented group of passionate professionals who bring a wealth of diverse ideas, backgrounds, and experiences to the table. This diverse team, in JP’s view, is instrumental in creating substantial value for the company on a daily basis.
Listen to Transforming accountech through vertical SaaS and a human approach with JP Durrios. Learn more about Bench Accounting and connect with JP on LinkedIn.