Harnessing modern, cloud-based software like Salesforce and Accounting Seed, Ayo & Iken Attorneys and Advocates have secured and grown their legal practice.
Have you ever heard someone make the claim, everything comes easy to me? For Howard Iken, founder and partner of Ayo & Iken Attorneys and Advocates, nothing has ever come easy. From living in the projects as a child to establishing Florida’s largest family law firm, Howard reached success by embracing perseverance and overcoming obstacles.
Growing up in the New York City projects, Howard didn’t have much. His parents worked several jobs at a time, all with crazy hours, all in an effort to put food on the table. There was no promise of college or any sort of success beyond that, simply because the family couldn’t afford to provide anything beyond the essentials. But, Howard watched as his parents never gave up. They kept working hard and never stopped.
“My family had nothing. But, they had work ethic. That is the thing I inherited from my parents,” said Howard. “I have worked really hard for everything I have. No one took me under their wings. I didn’t rise up at another organization. I had to create everything around me.”
And that’s exactly what he did.
From Nothing to Something
Howard put himself through college and began his career in electronic security. “Over a 14 year period, I built an electronic security firm, honestly starting at my dining room table!” This firm grew to 25+ employees and continues to manage projects all over Florida. Then, somewhere along the way, Howard wanted to reinvent himself, so he sold his business and put himself through law school.
“I was an older student in law school – a seasoned professional. So as I was in school, I was creating my business plan, writing down exactly how I would go about starting my own law firm. And from the start, I knew I wanted it to be family law.”
After three years of law school, Howard graduated from Stetson College of Law with a law degree and an MBA. Shortly after, he opened what was formerly known as “The Divorce Center” in New Port Richey, Florida.
“It was just me and a bunch of desks for eight other people. Someone asked me what I was going to do with all the space. To which I responded, ‘Fill it with attorneys, of course!’ And that is what I did.”
Cloud-Based Technology Enables Business Growth
Not only did he fill that office, but Howard went on to fill nine other offices with plans to expand to South West Florida. In the midst of this growth, Howard brought on Alberto Ayo as a partner and renamed their business to what is now known as today, Ayo & Iken, Attorneys and Advocates. The firm as a whole helps clients with divorce, custody, bankruptcy, criminal defense, wills/trusts/estates, and employee rights.
“Our growth has been exciting! The most fulfilling thing for me is seeing periods of time where things work together the way they should. It’s almost magical,” said Howard.
The day-to-day operations of the firm require a lot of oversight. But Howard notes that the day begins and ends with marketing and obtaining new cases. In between marketing and consultations, Howard’s day is filled with client, employee, and financial issues. To manage all of these tasks, he depends on robust, cloud-based technologies.
“About eight years ago, everything that ran our business was on a server and every location had to tap into these servers to run the firm. It took about six years to get the entire business on the cloud,” said Howard.
Coming from a technology-based company in his previous career, Howard saw the value in upgrading his business technology and today, he functions much like a chief technology officer in how the technology is managed and updated.
“But getting here wasn’t easy. Employees had trouble with change, and to go from a server to a fully cloud-based business with Salesforce, Accounting Seed, Advologics… it was tough. But, once everyone was familiar, we’d look back and say ‘Remember when this task used to take hours? What were we thinking?” laughs Howard.
Finding Peace of Mind with the Right Technology
The business, as a whole, treasures the cloud-based technology gained through Salesforce and Accounting Seed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until Hurricane Maria hit in 2017 that Howard realized just how important the technology switch was.
Having locations across all of Florida, it wasn’t a matter of if the Hurricane was going to hit the business – it was a matter of when. Howard and his team watched the news fervently, in hopes it would dissipate, but there were no signs of the massive hurricane stopping. While the fear of losing a location was real, Howard found new reassurance for his business, something that he wouldn’t have had years ago:
“I realized that no matter what happened, the firm was going to be okay. Because the next day, I was able to get new phones and computers, and get everyone back up and running because our business is now fully on the cloud – nothing was relying on a server room anymore,” said Howard.
Not only has the switch to technology like Accounting Seed given Howard and his team peace of mind, it also ensures that their data integrity remains accurate. In law, attorneys are held accountable for every action they take and report on, especially when it comes to accounting. If something is wrong, even if it is due to the technology, it falls back on the attorney.
“The technology has to be reliable because our reputation is on the line if something goes amiss. There is no higher duty for an attorney than accurate accounting. We cannot have it fail us. We’ve set up Accounting Seed to fully suit our professional needs, so the trust is there.”
Accounting Seed also easily connects to their other business applications such as Advologics, GridBuddy, and DocuSign. Because of Accounting Seed’s open API, Ayo & Iken can have one full business solution from accounting to contracts.
It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It
Now that Ayo & Iken have the right technology in place, their projected path for growth will continue. Plans for out of state expansion are now being realized because the firm has scalable and secure technology to get them there.
“Scalability is key. Accounting Seed has been so helpful for our growth. No more big servers. I just email when I need more users and boom – the access is provided.”
With years of experience under his belt and a work ethic he adopted from childhood, there is nothing stopping Howard from realizing his dreams and giving his people a path to reach their goals, too. Through cloud-based technology, Ayo & Iken has the ability to scale their firm, interact with clients on a deeper level, and empower their employees to grow and succeed.
“It doesn’t happen without a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Growing the business and our people is something we work on day-to-day, and it is hard. But as I always tell my partner, Alberto Ayo, ‘If it were easy, everyone would do it.’”