Talking with Tom Boyle, co-founder of TrustBooks, trust accounting software for small law firms, at Clio Cloud Conference 2018.

Kevin O’Keefe: Who am I talking with?

Tom Boyle: Tom Boyle here, one of the co-founders of TrustBooks.

Kevin O’Keefe: What does TrustBooks do?

Tom Boyle: We’re helping attorneys easily manage their trust account, while staying in compliance with their state bar.

Kevin O’Keefe: When did this all start yet?

Tom Boyle: Really, the conception was my conception. I’m a CPA and had a CPA practice, and was working almost exclusively with law firms and one of the very first questions you get when you go into pitch your service to a law firm, and you’re an accountant, is to say, do you know, trust accounting? So I had to come back with a real strong “absolutely.” Which led to becoming an expert like that. And I was using the products that exist that most small law firms use: Quickbooks, Excel. I was actually using both, to try and get a complete picture for the trust account, and just thought there’s gotta be something better. This is a pain point. These products aren’t built for trust accounting. And so that was the start, that was the conception of TrustBooks.

Kevin O’Keefe: Alright. So when was that?

Tom Boyle: That was about 2012. TrustBooks got discussed and brainstorm with my co-founder, Chad Todd, and it wasn’t until about 2014 that we said, “Yup, we’re doing this, we’re going to be TrustBooks.”

Kevin O’Keefe: What were the roles as co-founders? What was Chad’s role? What was yours?

Tom Boyle: So I’m a CPA, I’m the nerd accountant of the group.

Kevin O’Keefe: How long have you been an accountant?

Tom Boyle: So since 2004 I did Grad School. 2004 and 2005 I did Big 4 accounting, and in 2005 passed the CPA exam. So, you know, about 10 years before doing TrustBooks.

Kevin O’Keefe: And what’s Chad’s background?

Tom Boyle: Chad’s background is in technology. He’s got another company that does IT training. So of the two of us, he’s the technology.

Kevin O’Keefe: That wasn’t hard to guess.

Tom Boyle: More importantly, though, Chad hates accounting. Chad hates accounting, so we compliment each other just really, really well.

Kevin O’Keefe: How did you guys meet?

Tom Boyle: We met on a different business. So we’re very entrepreneurial, both of us. We’ve got other businesses and so we were both in the restaurant world, working on our businesses, working together, and that was about 2012. We got to know each other, sparked up a friendship. We’re the nerds that talk late at night about what’s a business idea, you know, that’s our hobby. It was just kind of natural that we ended up working together.

Kevin O’Keefe: That’s cool. So you get this up and you get this going. How does the world find out about TrustBooks?

Tom Boyle: Yeah, that’s a good question. And that’s one that we’re still trying to figure out.

Kevin O’Keefe: As we all are.

Tom Boyle: We’re trying to be the market leaders. We’re the pretty much the only ones in our space doing trust accounting software, and it’s not the most glamorous. We totally get that, but it’s also one of these very major pain points for lawyers. It’s one of the most common ways that a lawyer can get disbarred, and so they’ve got to have help, they’ve got to have resources, and that’s where we want to come into the equation. We want to be there as a guide. Yes, we’re selling TrustBooks, but we also want to be a resource. So how can we help attorneys better educate themselves around the trust rules? How can we put on Webinars, how can we put on CLEs? And so that’s our real big touch of getting out there. And, of course, we’re here at Clio Conference. We like integration, so one of our big steps is we’ve integrated with Clio, we integrate with LawPay, so we kind of tack on to these market leaders in their space to help improve that trust accounting experience.

Kevin O’Keefe: How long have you had an association with Clio?

Tom Boyle: So through TrustBooks, it’s been two years. Prior to that though, not many people know this, as Boyle CPA in 2010 I was on the Clio website. And so it’s just random, right? That you live in this space for so long and all the intertwines that happen. And then with LawPay the same, about two years that we’ve had integration.

Kevin O’Keefe: How did you get on Clio’s website as Boyle CPA?

Tom Boyle: There was only about four companies listed on this preferred partners page, and it just was happenstance. I think it was a little bit of maybe my hustle, trying to get out and network, and Jack was a road warrior at the time, and I met him a couple times at North Carolina Bar Association functions. Just from that, talking and asking the right questions and having the right dialogue, and Clio was very responsive. They’ve always been very welling to help out, and that’s been a huge, huge help.

Kevin O’Keefe: I mean, I talked to Jack a little bit about this today: how important it is to a lot of legal tech entrepreneurs out here that Clio exists?

Tom Boyle: Oh, it’s huge, it’s a foundation, and they’re the driving force. They’re the ones that are these leaders and they’ve bestowed a tremendous amount of responsibility on themselves and I think it’s great for the industry to just be out in front and be thought leaders and help drive the ship. I think it’s a tremendous driving force and it gives a lot of encouragement to the legal tech entrepreneurs, like myself, to just see what success looks like. And so it’s incredibly motivating.

Kevin O’Keefe: And very accessible. You can walk the hallways here and shoot the shit with Jack or other peers last night, they’re happy to talk to you. Knowing those guys, they were probably happy that Boyle CPA was willing to lend its name to Clio. I mean, you’re going to help us out and you’re going to help out some of these lawyers. That was kind of the philosophy that’s all been built on. Was there ever a time where you got this company going and you’re wondering, are we gonna make it or not?

Tom Boyle: Yeah, so we’re bootstrapped and being bootstrapped, there’s always this give and take of, you know, I’m impatient and being bootstrap and being impatient, you’ve got to have self-discipline to just stay the course and go through the right steps in the right timeline.

Kevin O’Keefe: Know any entrepreneurs that are really patient?

Tom Boyle: No. Pretty wired wired and, and pretty driven people, and they want the end to happen today. So that’s, that’s been the struggle, but with each new feature that we’ve added and it’s really been our user base and the feedback we get, it’s the unprompted testimonials that we get that, as impatient as I am, and I see all the, it could do this better, it could do that better, but user feedback is just through the roof on how responsive and welcoming and they love it. We’re accounting software. You don’t typically get that in accounting software.

Kevin O’Keefe: Is that the most rewarding part of it?

Tom Boyle: It is. Chad and I, we both have very customer-focused mindsets. It’s just who we are, so getting that feedback from the user is more rewarding than getting an extra $5 in the bank account. We would rather hear somebody say, “you guys are awesome, Where were you five years ago, this is amazing.”

Kevin O’Keefe: What’s it like to have your own business, your own show? I mean, even when you moved from the huge accounting firm, but it’s a service industry in that you’re helping the people would, businesses. What’s it like to be out there with those clients?

Tom Boyle: There are good days, and there are tough days. There’s this feeling that you’re always on, which you are. And some people love that. Some people, it can be anxiety filled. For me, I love the ability to shape something. I love the ability to know that I’ve got a voice and I can plug into that creative side and see something come to life. And that’s what we’ve got with TrustBooks, and it’s very rewarding to see. This was an idea, Chad and I brainstormed on it, then we took it and we white boarded it out. The progress and to now see people using it, and to be here at Clio Conference, that is a very rewarding aspect for me.

Kevin O’Keefe: Yeah. I mean, you talk about always on, you know, you’re right because you’re always on. I don’t mean on, in the way that you’re trying to show the product, but you’ve got your cell phone in your pocket and somebody can call with a question, or you’re getting emails and it’s a customer’s name. Are they happy or are they sad? In a minute you’re going to be on.

Tom Boyle: Ten minutes ago I was sitting down and I was customer support and you know, that’s just kinda the, the all-in mentality that somebody is out there struggling and you just jump in. If somebody is having a pain point, you jump in and that’s what you do.

Kevin O’Keefe: I’m laughing, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard it “always on,” because you are always on. And it doesn’t have to be. We can get stressed at times, because you’d like to turn off the lights once in a while, and just go away for a week, but it doesn’t necessarily happen.

Tom Boyle: And in today’s world we’re so mobile, so you can access anything anywhere. So that helps. But yes, still still always got to be plugged in.

Kevin O’Keefe: But your edges to is to be customer centric, to be there for them, to be responsive. If you were in a larger company they may not respond like that, but you will.

Tom Boyle: At a larger company I would go on vacation, and I would put an away message up in my inbox. I haven’t put an away message up in my inbox in two years.

Kevin O’Keefe: That’s a good way to put it. Thanks Tom.