Alumna helps CPAs and clients come together during COVID-19 pandemic
As business owners and certified public accountants face an avalanche of questions regarding business loan funding regulations and new tax deadlines, Kaitlyn Kirkhart (B.A. ’16) and her peers are paving the way for people to get answers.
Kirkhart, who earned a degree in communication studies from Texas State University, is the chief communications officer (COO) for BaCo Tech, a Dallas-based automated cloud accounting company that helps bridge the gap between business owners and CPAs, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. BaCo Tech’s software provides a platform for business owners to keep track of their estimated current-year income. That wealth of information is accessible for both business owner and accountant in real time.
“My biggest role is customer relations,” Kirkhart said. “I like to ask myself, what steps are we going to take to connect with CPA firms? I love connecting with people. That’s why I majored in communications.”
Kirkhart started as communications coordinator/executive assistant before moving into the CCO job at BaCo Tech. at the beginning of the year. “Since we received venture capital on December 31, my team and I have begun to figure out what our roles look like at a tech startup. During the COVID-19 shut down, our roles quickly began to be molded into our strengths, mine being customer relationships, as well as, other PR and communication tasks.”
Now, Kirkhart’s role also includes being secretary for the board and internal communications – essentially, anything under the communications umbrella and those internal operations. “I use my communication degree every day,” she said. “Collecting data is an important part of marketing, and persuasive writing and public speaking is critical for client.”
Considering the many on-the-fly developments connected to existing company payrolls, changes in the size of company staffs and the rules for the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program, the mission of BaCo Tech is to help business owners be more proactive in their relationship with their CPA by working on this year’s accounting and tax returns instead of always looking at last year.
“This tech was developed within a public accounting firm,” Kirkhart said. “Most businesses can’t effectively transmit this year’s financial information to their accountant and have it part of his workflow, that is where BaCo Tech steps in. It creates a real-time transfer of a client’s accounting information and integrates it into a standard workflow for a CPA firm. Adjustments can be made or proposed in the workflow and sent back to the client or made in the workflow for this year’s tax return. When CPAs ask how, BaCo Tech replies: ‘We Speak Accounting.’ I never thought my communication degree would be so applicable for accounting, but the very foundation of their software is based on facilitating communications between an accountant and their CPA.”
Kirkhart has witnessed the disconnect that can happen between clients and CPAs firsthand. “CPAs typically work crazy hours,” Kirkhart said. “This is due to CPAs receiving client’s tax information once a year, by email, mail and portals, in Excel and PDFs and backups at the very last minute where questions about last year start getting asked. BaCo Tech gathers each night, delivers the data in a standard format and creates an environment where questions from today get answered tomorrow.”
There is also a time-gap element in play within the client-CPA relationship. “Usually, a CPA and client are working in different years,” Kirkhart said. “The client is doing business as usual this year and the CPA is working on last year’s tax returns and audits. Our online platform puts the CPA and client in the same year. Our goal is to give CPAs their lives back by eliminating busy season and give business owners peace of mind.”
Kirkhart’s studies at Texas State solidified her ability to communicate with all parties involved. She received the Elton Abernathy Scholarship, made the Dean’s List three times and was an officer for the Communication Studies Honors Society, Lambda Pi Eta.
Kirkhart also served on a worship team and as a small group leader within a campus ministry called Crosstalk. “I enjoyed my time serving there and being part of it.” she said.
A couple of other academic experiences had a huge impact on her career track. Taking public speaking classes enabled Kirkhart to develop and refine communication skills. Last year, she joined Toastmasters International, a nationwide organization that provides resources for people to become better communicators. “Public speaking is a good skill to have and constantly improve,” Kirkhart said.
She also served as a teaching assistant for Dr. Maureen Keeley’s interpersonal communications class. “That was my favorite part of being a communications major,” Kirkhart said. “Dr. (Maureen) Keeley is an amazing person who mentored me and two other teaching assistants. By her allowing us to teach this course hands on, it solidified the power of communication into my personal life, as well as, my future career.”
Some lessons stuck. “For us as a startup, the process of creating a foundation can be daunting, and throwing a pandemic in the midst of it didn’t make it any easier. While sheltering in place, however, my communications degree was utilized even more than before by understanding, we’re all human, and the only person’s communication you can change is your own.
“I’m grateful for my time at Texas State, it created a great foundation to my career and my personal life, that I will take with me forever,” Kirkhart said.