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January 18, 2024

Pioneering the Future of Production Accounting with Wrapbook

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0:00  

Welcome to On Production brought to you by Wrapbook. Today we're joined by Rick Rice, a true LA native with deep roots in the entertainment industry and a fascinating journey in the world of production accounting software. Rick's career spans from working at Great American Software in his teens to playing a pivotal role in developing Wrapbooks, cutting edge accounting solution, his unique blend of technical expertise and firsthand industry knowledge makes him a formal figure in this space. Today, Rick will share insights from his journey, the evolution of accounting software and entertainment and his exciting work at Wrapbook. Rick, it's great to have you with us.

0:37  

Thanks, Cameron. It's a real honor to be here.

0:39  

So Rick, I mean, you shared with me before that, you know, you're one of the few LA natives in the industry. How do you think growing up in Hollywood has influenced your career path?

0:50  

You know, it's a really interesting journey, because there's so many sides of Hollywood, there's what everybody sees on the camera. There's actually living here as a teenager, you know, going to school when it was really gritty back in the 80s. And, even earlier, I don't want to date myself too much. But Hollywood's a very interesting mix. And my family has an interesting history here, starting with my grandfather, who was general manager of the Hollywood Palladium throughout the 50s and 60s, the second golden era of Hollywood, for those unfamiliar with the Palladium. It's currently a theater on Sunset Boulevard that hosts live events like concerts and plays. But back in the day, it was home of the Lawrence Welk Show and broadcasted the biggest bands and the biggest shows of the era on TV. I think the show lasted like 20 years. My grandfather was technically Laura's Wilks boss, so my mom, uncle and grandmother, were at the center of all the Hollywood stuff. I've seen pictures of my family with all sorts of famous people like Marilyn Monroe, Danny Kaye, Joe DiMaggio, Grace Kelly, we still have the invitation my grandparents received to attend Grace Kelly's wedding to the prince of Monaco back in ‘56.

2:09  

Wow.

2:10  

Yeah, it's pretty cool. My uncle has told me some stories where he used to escort Marlene Dietrich and other starlets to industry events, and my mom was practically raised on the side of Bonanza, and Michael Landon, for those of you who remember him, he used to babysit her, and they eventually became good friends well into their adulthood. I can name drop all day. But my grandfather passed away shortly before I was born. And the family slowly faded out of the Hollywood scene afterward. My father was a Los Angeles police officer, He's now retired. So I had more of a normal upbringing, and never got the chance to enjoy all the glitz and the glamour. That seems really cool, really fun. And all the stories I heard about my family, I see shows at the Palladium periodically, I go to concerts there. And my uncle has one picture of my grandfather talking to JFK, on the same stage that I now watch bands perform on. And it really is kind of weird. And of course, like every other young person in LA, I wanted to be on that stage. And I pursued acting career for about a minute. But I found that I actually had a bigger fascination with computers and technology. So my path went quite a different direction. It's

3:29  

interesting, though, because it's like your fascination in technology. Its intersection with entertainment, payroll, and then your family's kind of history in Hollywood and kind of being influenced by entertainment in the area that you live. It all kind of came together. And we'll definitely get to that. But I'm curious, like you just mentioned it, like your interests, as a kid and into adulthood, have really centered around technology. Can you share more about your kind of early fascination with technology, and how it led to your first job in making accounting software?

4:06  

Yeah, so in high school, I worked at Baskin Robbins in North Hollywood. And I saved every one of my paychecks so that I could buy my first computer, an Atari 800 XL. This is like 1988 1989. So that was the cutting edge technology at the time, you know, external floppy drive, everything connected together. I was dying to be a tech head. And this was my gateway machine, like my real gateway into the tech world. I was one of a very few number of students in the late 80s that printed their homework on the dot matrix printer and passed it to teachers. So yeah, I was a real geek back then.

4:52  

Amazing. You know, about a

4:54  

year later, I was living in New Hampshire of all places, and got my first job working at Great American software. A company that has long since deceased, they created a small business accounting software application called one right plus, it was based off of the old safeguard and one right ledger systems that used to be really popular back in the day for businesses to use to keep track of their accounting. So great American software had less than 100 employees. But it was one of only a handful of small business accounting programs that electronic stores actually kept in stock. You know, there weren't big computer stores that you know, built up like CompUSA, and computer city that have now long since gone out of business. But you've got to remember, this is 10 years before QuickBooks was released. And so here I am a teenager, teaching season to business owners how to computerize their accounting using our software. And honestly, it was exhilarating. I absolutely loved it. I felt like I was actively bringing the world into the modern age. And I just couldn't get enough of the experience working with these different companies. And being like the tech expert at the time, even though I was far from that. So awesome. The one right plus product was bought and sold a few times over the years and eventually ended up at ADP, who a lot of people know is the the popular payroll company, ADP also owned peach tree, the time that's another small business accounting system. But peach tree was a much larger, much more sophisticated piece of software. companies had to purchase accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll modules separately of the general ledger. And each one of those programs was robust enough to be run on their own. Working on that system, or a system of that size just introduced me to accounting on a whole new level. And to be honest, it was a little intimidating at first. But it exposed me to a wide range of businesses that I really found fascinating.

7:00  

That's truly fascinating. Rick, I'm really curious from one right plus, all the way to now in your current role at Wrabook, you seen the evolution of accounting software firsthand. And I'm very curious, from your vantage point, what have been some key milestones in this evolution.

7:21  

You know, the technology obviously, is the hugest difference. The great thing about accounting is accounting is accounting. It's debits and credits. It's been around for 1000s of years, I think the monks invented it in like 2000 years ago, to keep track of accounting. And here we are using the same principles of debits and credits to keep track of stuff on computers. What strikes me the most early on, we had the old computers, we'd have like a dual floppy system. So you've got one floppy disk, you put into run the accounting application. And when you are ready to save your data, you pull that floppy, put another floppy in and you save your data. And everybody had these floppy disks, and they were gold, like they people would lock them in their safe. This basically was how you would store your data. And if you didn't have your floppy disk on you, if you didn't have that data in your possession, you felt like your business information, all of your details could be gone could be lost. And so you want that security of having that close by you fast forward to now where in the beginning, cloud computing cloud software was something that people were really afraid of. I think users in general, were worried about the fact that the cloud was a nebulous thing, and your data was just floating around in outer space, and that it wasn't secure, and anybody could just easily access it. And now I can't even imagine storing anything important on my computer, much less a floppy disk, or a flash drive or any other medium, one crash and everything is gone. In the general perception of things, you can think about how now the cloud is our go to default area for storing data, because you know that no matter what happens in your environment, on your local computer, all the data is now stored online. And it's amazing to see how the industry shifted and not easily trust me. I worked on Windows systems and getting clients off the Windows systems into the cloud was really difficult because not having the security of having the data local was a hard thing for businesses and production accountants and production companies to release. They wanted to own that data. They wanted to possess it. So now that it's actually in the cloud. And the fact that everybody feels so comfortable with that just shows you how much we've come how much the industry has evolved over time.

9:38  

What was it like introducing computerized accounting to seasoned business owners back in the early days of the industry? Back

9:43  

in the early days? It's probably very similar to how the entertainment industry was in the beginning. When we were trying to roll out cloud accounting. Business owners had paper Ledger's paper Ledger's is something that's tangible something you can see you can actually watch your transactions them grow on these pages, which would fold over like a book, keeping track of your accounting, moving everything computerized, seems so much more complicated because now they have to learn to use a computer, they have to learn how to use these accounting applications. And you gotta remember, this isn't the early days, there was no Internet, small business owners were just starting to adopt using computers to do all sorts of tasks. So convincing them to use accounting software was a struggle, just because it meant a whole shift in the mindset of the industry, and individual business owners to put all of your data into this electronic contraption on your desk, and then generate reports from that and be completely reliant on this new technical device that you had to learn how to use. And, you know, I can flash forward back to the late 2000s, when I was working for one of our competitors, with a Windows accounting system that installed locally on your computer, and you saved it on your computer, you saved it to your drive. And you had that security of having that information in your possession. And to now move over to a cloud based system to move to an online system is scary, because at the time, no one really understood the cloud, it was this nebulous term for having data floating around in outer space. So convincing small business owners to move over to computerized accounting on the computer is kind of similar to convincing production accountants and studios to move from having a local software that you stored on your machine, to now trusting that a server is holding onto your data and backing it up and is actually storing it and providing you with instant access wherever you are.

11:50  

That makes a lot of sense. Shifting gears a little bit. You know, Rick, you work here with me at Wrapbuck. And you bring with you, you know, sorry to date you but decades of experience building accounting systems. I know really curious to ask you, for our listeners, what drew you to rap book? And how has your extensive background influenced the development of rap books accounting platform?

12:17  

That is a really great question. I have found that the way Wrapbook makes problem solving, it's number one mission is a truly innovative way of thinking. Every project I work on starts with a defined definition of the problem. And I don't mean something like Why won't my report run is more of an exercise to really understand why the user needs to generate the report in the first place. Who is the audience for the report? How do users need to get the report? And what did they get to do once they have it? Starting with these kinds of questions, really makes you stop and think and opens up opportunities to ensure that we're not just creating more of the same thing that everyone else in the industry is trying to make. As you said, I've been doing this for a long time, I've worked with a lot of different accounting software programs. And sometimes it feels like we're just making a faster horse. We're just making a newer version with a better skin of the same thing. Here at Wrapbook actually starting by digging in first to understand what problem are we solving and understanding how everything is going to be used from the mindset in the very beginning, really changes how you approach accounting, you're not just trying to make a nicer version of what's already out there. You're actually trying to innovate and think how can we twist things around and make it so that way, it's even simpler than it used to be, and still have all the power and the robust mechanisms that accountants need to do their job each day? You

13:49  

know, I'm curious, like, I think it's been a really awesome partnership, having you on the team here at Wrapbook and taking your experience, your technical ability, pairing it with some of the like, incredible patterns and rituals that the wrap up product and engineering team developed to be really problem focused. But even before you kind of got in house at Wrapbook, like, I am curious, what drew you to wrap up? I mean, you have worked at all of the big names in entertainment payroll. I mean, it's kind of a big leap for you to come to this, you know, kind of fast paced technology company from Silicon Valley, like, what was it that kind of gave you the faith that this would be worth pursuing and worth, like building from scratch again, you

14:42  

know, I have to say, The environment here is something that I have really missed in companies I've worked at in the past. When you're working for a big company that has big clients. It's easy to really focus on those larger clients instead of some Some of the smaller clients, or some of the new businesses that are starting to spring up and really need help and need guidance, and really want need and need the attention that wrap up can provide for these businesses, this company very much has that desire to do things better, has the desire to innovate on again, not just making a faster horse, but I've got to tell you, the team here when I first met them, I am impressed every day with how obscenely smart and inquisitive the engineers are. I mean, the sheer fact that they've been able to create a working accounting solution within six months, is evidence of how quickly and efficiently they can work. I mean, I seriously can't wait to see where we are six months from now, it also really helps that we have a modern platform. And we use modern tools. This gives us the ability to create cutting edge solutions. When you're working at a company that has a lot of legacy applications. And a lot of legacy systems that you have to pair with, it gets difficult to innovate, because you always are sometimes as strong as your weakest link, right? Like you really have to make sure that you're backwards compatible, you have to make sure that your your new technology can still work with old technology. And at times it can hinder you. And one thing I really appreciate about Wrapbook is that we do have the latest technology, we do have a well thought out platform that has already provided innovative solutions for our existing customers, and gives us an amazing springboard to move forward into the future with the new clients are going after

16:36  

Super insightful. I mean, you mentioned that in the process of building Wrapbook’s production accounting product, that the approach has really been oriented around problem solving. Can you give an example of how this approach has shaped the development of the new accounting functionality.

16:55  

So there have been challenges in online systems that I've worked with in the past that have never quite been overcome. And one of the problems that we've really been able to dive into is, if you're working in a cloud based system, and you've got data, without getting overly technical, when you open up a browser and you're entering data, and that data lives in your browser, you generally have to hit Save to push it to the server so that data gets saved, right. So the way that the structure is right now, for a lot of applications, if you never hit that Save button, because your computer crashes, or you lose your Internet access, or if your laptop battery dies, right, there's a whole slew of reasons that can happen, where that save button never got hit. And that data never got saved. And the worst phone call I got in the past, was an accountant on the phone who had just worked for an hour in a budget, creating a transaction, trying to cut a credit card statement and lost all that data and has to redo it again, that is the worst news to give to a client. And when I first started this company, one of the things I wanted to make sure is that I never had to have that conversation here. I never wanted to have to tell somebody, you just lost all the work that you did for the past hour. So one of the first innovations we've created here was the Save as you go the auto-save functionality. The beauty of this is even if your transactions not unbalanced, even if you haven't finished your work, it doesn't matter if you close your laptop, if you lose power, if you slip and drop your laptop in the swimming pool, you will always have your data because it's saved every time you create a new line, a new row every time you add new work in, it's saved. So having that peace of mind from, somebody who is working with clients and has had to get those horrible phone calls to an accountant who has to have the security of knowing that they're never going to lose their data, just to be able to get through the day. Because when you've got so much work to do, the last thing that you need to worry about is am I going to lose everything I just did. So that was a problem that we really started with diving into is how can we make sure I never get that phone call. And nobody that company gets a phone call. And we were solving that. The second one is the ability to quickly get data into the system. A lot of the systems have a copy paste capability. But generally you have to have some kind of template and your data that you're pasting has to conform to a template. And God forbid your data has like an apostrophe or a column or some kind of special character. Your imports can get scrambled and you can have issues. And so the team wanted to take something that users are kind of used to and expecting the ability to paste in, but take it to the next level. And during the demo yesterday, I actually showed an accountant how you can take data in any format, paste it into our system, and it created 100 rows for you without needing to do any manipulation. The user could simply identify Oh, this is my location code. This is my account code. This is my description, identify what the columns were, and the data came right in there. There was zero work, zero formatting, no work they had to do. The accountant literally told me that I couldn't see them. But their jaw was open when I showed him this functionality. And that is really like, the thing that gets me is when an accountant is so excited about something I'm excited about, then literally excitement goes up to 11, it's been really

20:20  

cool to watch, you know, the production accounting product that you've created with the team. And then we've launched them to market you just mentioned a little bit earlier that like you're very excited about six months from now, because we'll have continuing active development on the product. You know, and even in these first initial releases of the product, there are these features that you're excited about, and that production accountants are excited about, which is really cool to come out of the gate with a cloud based system with some like really awesome autosave functionality, really easy ways to get data in some like very elegant and joyful, like workflows that just make life better for production accountants. But I am curious to ask you, Rick, like as we look to the future as you continue to build up features and functionality. With your insight into the nuances of entertainment accounting, what features do you believe are kind of crucial for a modern accounting system

21:25  

approvals is a big one. One of the overwhelming responses we've got from our research is that approvals for everything from payroll timecards, purchase orders, accounts payable, invoices creating vendors, right now approvals in a lot of systems seem to be it's it's scattered, you have approvals in different areas, there's no like central area to do approvals. And to have an easy way to have full visibility of all the approvals that are needed to get these things into this system. Because it doesn't matter how many accountants you have to enter data into the system. If you don't have the approvals to get that data in and to get that data onto reports, then you're kind of stuck. And sometimes the processes can take a long time. So I see having a really robust approvals process that's centralized. And having an approvals engine is one area that is really crucial for us to work on next. And not to give away any secrets. But we're working on that next. So having big approvals is something that I see is really key for the industry. I've always been a big fan of decentralization, I've spent time out in production working with accountants, one of the companies I worked at previously had the advantage of having a large group of production accountants they hired out on different projects. And when they weren't actively working on a project, they'd be doing prep or post within a building that I was in. So I would go upstairs. And at any given time, there were a dozen accountants I could just sit with and learn the processes, learn their pain points, see the kinds of things that they needed to make their workflow easier. And I learned a tremendous amount from them. And going out to production and sitting with accountants who are actually in production. And I actually assisted, acted as an assistant accountant for a couple of accountants, just to kind of see what it was like. And I can imagine it's a lot like being a grandparent, you get out there, and it's fun, and it's exciting. It's crazy, and I'm exhausted at the end of the day, but I know that at the end the day I can, you know, like a grandkid pass it back and I can have my peace and quiet. I have a tremendous amount of respect for accountants knowing that they don't just give it back at the end of the day, right? Like when I'm done being an assistant, I can go back to my job and they take over the amount of work they're juggling, to make sure, payees are getting paid on time to make sure accounting data is getting in to make sure these approvals are happening. It's staggering. And I have a tremendous amount of respect for production accountants. And my goal has always been to try to make their life easier. How can we take work away from them? How can we decentralize some of the things that they're doing? Because when you think about it, we still as an industry are hand entering a tremendous amount of data, purchase orders, accounts payable, invoices, journal entries, vendors, there's a lot of information that's being hand typed into the system. And that takes time to do. So I think we have some tremendous opportunities for innovation around there around how can we eliminate some of that manual step and create more automation. So these are some of the things that we're tackling right now and that we're addressing and that I'm really excited about the next six months, nine months, one year of what we're working on.

24:41  

I want to dig into though, but I'm curious from your view, Rick, how does Wrapbook’s, production accounting solution address, the specific needs and challenges of production accountants, I mean, you mentioned that you've been in the trenches with them. You've seen these challenges but are offering today you know how Have that address specific needs and kind of our own unique graphic way.

25:03  

Sure, the version that we just released has very basic functionality and all the basic functionality you need to do accounting on a project. But some of the key things that accountants need, are like the ability to use just their keyboard, right, they don't want to use their mouse to click and go back to the keyboard and click and go back to the keyboard, they don't want to use the 10 key, they want to be able to just enter everything on one hand, because they might be holding a piece of paper and another. Anytime you have to lift your hands off the keyboard, anytime you have to use your mouse, it's gonna slow down the process. So one of the things we did with version one of the system is make sure that the whole system is keyboard navigable. So that way, as you're doing your entries, throughout your budget throughout your journal entries, accounts payable, purchase orders, all those line by line entries, that we can make it as fast as possible, the autocomplete using your keyboard. And so everything that we've done has really focused around, how can we make the accounts life easier, doing speedy entry in all of these main areas?

26:02  

You know, Rick, I'm curious, you know, where do you see the future of production accounting software heading, especially in the context of, you know, the ever evolving entertainment mediums,

26:14  

I see the big opportunity for first of all accountants being able to kind of decentralize again by inviting workers into the system so that they can actually enter their own information. Same with vendors. Same with other entities. But one of the big things is hot costs. So hot costs are a big item in the entertainment industry, and a big pain in the butt because a lot of production companies manually generate these. And that's kind of insane when you think about it, because payroll companies have all of the timecard information before your payrolls officially finalized, you've got all of your accounting data, you have even your purchase orders that have maybe been entered, but haven't been approved yet. All that data is in the system. But there's no mechanism really to tie it all together, and mix and match what you want to see on these hot Cost Report. One of the greatest things about Wrapbook is that we have an all in one system, we have a single platform, that means all of your daily time cards as they are saved are in the same system. As all of your accounts payable costs, your purchase orders all of your posted information, also in the same area where you've got purchase orders that maybe have been requested, but haven't been fully approved. So all the information is in our system. So I see a tremendous opportunity to provide really flexible, hot costs, where we can actually give payroll, accounts payable, and even unapproved information, all into report with a click of a button. And this is where I see a tremendous amount of innovation that we're already working toward. And that that is one of the big missions I have is finding out from accountants, what exactly they want to see how can we make that process truly remarkable.

27:56  

That's too cool. It's fun to be excited about accounting. And it's fun to be excited about production accounting, but direct. It's the you've mentioned, like so many cool features, things that we've already released things you're excited about releasing approvals, etc. If I had to pin you down and get you to pick a favorite upcoming feature or development in Wrapbook, what would you pick? What are you most excited about? Hmm,

28:21  

I'm gonna have to say that hot costs is actually pretty exciting for me, because every time I mentioned it to an accountant, there, I seem to light up quite a bit. Not spending hours of work working on that for me, I'm gonna have to say, you know, of all the automation of all the scanning that we want to do so that you can automatically upload documents of all the the mobile application things that we really haven't even touched on yet. The possibilities, there are so many things that we can do there that we're we have our planning board right now. But the hot cost for me is got to be the big one, because that's the one that kind of picks up the most years when you talk about it at different events. That's

29:02  

awesome. In closing out here, Rick, thanks so much for your time. I'm really very curious, you know, having seen this industry and entertainment, both from your family's stories of kind of knowing the who's who, in Hollywood, to your own experience working in the industry, seeing it for all these different angles. What do you think is the key to successfully adapting and growing and in this kind of constantly changing industry and field? You

29:28  

know, that is a great question. And I can say I've been doing a little bit of, I don't want to say soul searching. I've been doing like a little bit of inner reflection about this. Because I've been doing this for so many years. It's very easy to fall into the the mantra of well, I've done this, I know how to do it, and this is the way things are done. And I have personally tried to challenge myself to act like I'm a newbie every single day. Like how can I approach this as somebody who doesn't know anything about accounting, how can I approach computers as someone who doesn't know about computers and wants to make this is simplistic enough that even a novice or a child could figure out where to go to do things, making things simple. And in really, catering to the user does require the ability to ask a lot of questions and never assume that you know the answers. No matter how long I've done this. I learned new things every single day. And being open to learn being open to feedback, being open to ask the same questions over and over again and listen to the different answers, I think is truly key for success. Because once you think you know it all, there's nowhere more to grow.

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