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Palmerston North students visit Xero in San Francisco

Xero had the pleasure of hosting around 40 Palmerston North Boys’ High School students at our San Francisco head office this week.

PNTHBOYS-X-crowd

With many aspiring accountants and business owners in the room, there was a great buzz around how Xero is helping accountants spend less time doing accounting compliance work and more time advising businesses on how to grow.

We were able to give the students some background on Xero and our US market entry, and Stuart McLeod talked to them about his experience starting a company, getting acquired and then moving to the US. Our Senior Trainer, Evan Hall, also ran an exercise on small business, showing the roles and relationships involved in running one, as well as the systems and software involved.

 

 

United Kingdom HQ 2.0 – moving to a new home

We’re growing fast in the UK. In the past two years we’ve gone from a team of 8 to a team of nearly 70! That’s pretty amazing growth by anyone’s standard. And it means we’re quickly outgrowing our UK starter home in Milton Keynes, twenty-five minutes north of London.

We’re on the move

As much fun as it might be, we don’t want to end up sitting on each others laps. So we’ve been out house-hunting and have found the perfect building for us to move into, just down the road from our current location. This means there’s some logistical challenges to start thinking about: How do you move an entire UK operation from one building to another? How do you make the new office a shining example of everything that’s great about Xero? And how big a range of KitKats will the chocolate vending machine have?

A brief history of Xero UK

When we first brought Xero to the UK in 2008 we briefly flirted with a set-up comprising a couple of desks in a shared workspace in London, before abandoning that in favour of a core team working remotely across (mostly) the south of the UK, meeting up in local coffee shops and hotel lobbies. By the way, you’ll find that coffee plays an important part in the Xero story and having some quality espresso machines is definitely high on everyone’s wish list for the new office.

uk-chart.png

In March 2012 we moved to our present headquarters in Avebury Boulevard, Milton Keynes where having the whole team under one roof certainly made a big difference, even if the coffee machine left something to be desired. When you all sit together things like communication between departments, team spirit and overall awareness of your shared strategic goals all tend to improve. That feeling of being a member of an extended family is a big part of what we’re about at Xero, so we’re going to make sure we keep that sociable vibe when we move to our bigger building.

What we’re looking for in our new UK HQ

Growth has been a big factor in us outgrowing the current office, but it’s not the only reason. We’ve got three main goals for the new office move. We’re aiming to:

  • create an awesome work environment for our people and our clients

  • accommodate the continued growth of Xero UK, and

  • reinforce the Xero experience in the UK market.

The look and feel of our global Xero offices is something we’re very proud of. Our offices in Wellington, Melbourne and San Francisco are great examples of how a workspace can be flexible, practical and functional whilst also being beautiful. We want our UK HQ to continue this design-led approach to office design. And we want our clients to get that same human, magical Xero experience whichever office they’re in around the world.

And as Xero UK grows we’ll be expanding our offices across the rest of the UK, always with the same careful attention to providing an amazing place for our people to work.

Why Milton Keynes is the perfect location

Yes, we’ve heard all the ‘concrete cow’ jokes. But there are some compelling reasons why Milton Keynes is an amazing location for a UK business. And we’re not alone in thinking this. In our new office we’ll be next door to the Spanish banking giant, Santander (seriously, right next door – so, we’ll be popping round to borrow a cup of sugar) and the 3,500 staff working at their UK customer contact centre. And the UK rail provider, Network Rail, moved 3,000 of its people from London to a new HQ in the city in 2012.

The attraction of Milton Keynes as an HQ comes down to it’s terrific transport links and infrastructure. With the M1 motorway on the doorstep and London a 25-minute journey away on the West Coast Mainline train link (which also brings 75% of the UK’s population within reach of a two hour journey) it’s easy to see why we’ve chosen to base Xero’s UK operations here.

The plans for Milton Keynes are certainly looking amazing. We’ll be moving from 50 desks in our current location to 150 desks in our new HQ. And some of those will even be innovative standing desks that will give us a whole new way of working. So, it’s looking like our new building is definitely going to take us to the next level in our office experience.

Keeping you up-to-date with our progress

Over the coming months, we’ll be updating you on our progress with the new HQ and giving our top tips for a successful office move. There are plenty of things to consider, from IT infrastructure to ergonomic desk layouts, meeting room design to audio/visual set-up. And, of course, where the coffee machines will be. Tune in for part 2 in this series where our new Facilities Manager will give us her advice on making the move as pain-free as possible.

 

Managing your Xero subscription

Following a recent dispute between a small business owner and his accountant in Australia, we thought it would be timely to provide a reminder about the way that subscriptions work under Xero’s Terms of Use.

Disputes in business happen all the time and in this specific case the issue was not actually related to Xero but more to do with services charged for implementing Xero along with a more complex add-on solution.

With over 280,000 customers we’re pleased that we’ve only seen a handful of these types of issues and generally we are able to work with and encourage the parties to work towards a resolution. Regardless, as small business moves to the cloud we’re keen to raise the discussion so the accounting and bookkeeping profession is best equipped for the technology changes we’re all experiencing.

The Xero accounting platform helps accountants and bookkeepers provide more advanced services to their clients through the ability to easily access and work with the client’s data in real time.

We fundamentally believe that small businesses do better if they have accountants and bookkeepers working alongside them. However, we don’t mandate that relationship and accordingly offer a flexible subscription model.

The small business owner and the advisor can decide how to structure the subscription depending on the needs of the client. The advisor can set up a subscription in Xero and incorporate (often called ‘bundling’) the Xero subscription fees into their service fees that are charged to the small business as their client. In this way the advisor becomes the “Subscriber”. Alternatively, the small business owner can hold their own subscription and pay Xero directly for the subscription fee. In this way the small business owner becomes the “Subscriber”, and can invite their advisor into the subscription as an “Invited User” (a user with certain access rights set by the Subscriber).

All users of Xero accept the same Terms of Use. The Terms of Use state that the “Subscriber” for a Xero subscription controls access to that subscription. The Subscriber also determines the level of access that other “Invited Users” have to the Xero subscription.

When it comes to using Xero, small business owners should consider who they wish to act as “Subscriber” in relation to the Xero subscription. A small business owner can register for Xero themselves and assume the “Subscriber” role, and limit the accountant’s involvement to that of “Invited User”.

A good accountant or bookkeeper will provide terms of engagement and a fee agreement before starting any work for a small business owner. The terms of engagement should clearly state each parties’ rights and responsibilities around the Xero subscription, along with the level of fees, service delivery expectations, and so on.

A good accountant or bookkeeper should also provide a small business owner with regular updates on the fees that have been charged. Small business owners should ask their accountant or bookkeeper for this information if it is not provided regularly. If a client has concerns about the level of fees being charged by their accountant or bookkeeper while the work is being carried out, they should talk to their accountant or bookkeeper first. If they are unable to resolve the situation with their accountant or bookkeeper, the small business owner should contact one of the relevant professional bodies in their country.

We are working on guidelines to help the relationship between small business owners and their accountants or bookkeepers in relation to cloud accounting software. This is an interesting area. We have raised the issue with relevant industry bodies and over the next few months will progress this as a project.

We’ll update you as we make progress.

We’re keen to hear any of your thoughts and concerns as we kick off this piece of work.

Please feel free to discuss below.

 

 

Xero Farming Roadshow – New Zealand

We’re coming to a town near you to showcase our upcoming solution for your farming clients. Join us, in conjunction with Figured, at the Xero Farming Roadshow this May and June to see how we’re going to connect accountants and bookkeepers to farming clients in a real-time set of data.

Joining us for the Xero Farming Roadshow will qualify you for two CPD hours. And by attending the roadshow and completing a Xero for Farming pilot, you’ll become a Xero Farming Specialist.

Register for the roadshow today!

Xero Farming Roadshow – NZ

 

Improving your Xero support experience

With our latest release to Xero, we snuck in a couple of really awesome improvements to our help menu. It’s just the beginning of heaps of cool new features we have planned for finding help and contacting the Xero support team, but for now you’ll still see some immediate improvements.

Searching within this menu now looks across multiple sources, including: the User Guide, FAQ help page, Xero TV and our Business Community. Each search result has a symbol to the left showing where it’s from, and there’s the option to pick and choose which sources you want included in your search. Consolidating these sources brings more information directly to you, saving time compared to searching each one individually.

Would you like help today – Xero support

If you can’t find what you need, you can always contact us in Support. This is the blue Contact Xero Support button at the bottom of the search results. By raising a ticket from within Xero we receive more information (rather than emailing) – like your organization’s name, product edition, your role, system, and browser version – all of which helps us find and get an answer to you faster.

Lastly, if you have a feature request you’ll now be directed to the Feature Request section of Community. This is where you can search for the feature you’d like and add your vote. If you can’t find an existing request, create your own that you and other users can vote on.

We’re just starting with new and better ways to make this an even better experience, and we think you’ll find this a quicker and easier way of raising any questions you have with us.  To validate that we’re already getting some great feedback from customers like Ryan Ashton using the new Xero support features and we look forward to rolling out more!

Ryan Ashton loves Xero support

 

 

Zendesk customer service software partners with WorkflowMax, Xero

With more than 40,000+ customers in all corners of the world, Zendesk is leading the future of customer service software with its cloud-based solutions. At WorkflowMax, our lovely support team use Zendesk to manage queries. Many of our customers wrote queries requesting integration with Zendesk, so… we created one!

Customer service software that integrates with job management and accounting

The solution is super-simple and very clever. While you’re solving a customer issue within Zendesk, you can record your time directly against the job in WorkflowMax. You can connect your customer service management, time billing and the Xero accounting platform in one end-to-end solution – using WorkflowMax as the conduit.

Take a look inside the new, improved Zendesk app in the video below:

With the Zendesk + WorkflowMax integration, you can connect your customer service software seamlessly with your workflow and accounting solution. Beautiful!

Watch the video to learn more about this awesome integration, and let us know what you think!

 

 

Business to Government Innovation Workshop

We teamed up with Inland Revenue, Westpac and MBIE to host a two-day Business to Government innovation session to explore and identify digital services that could reduce the cost and transform the way the two parties interact in the future and bring it to life.

An illustration done by Gavin Blake of Fever Picture during the session:

Business to Government drawing by Gavin Blake

The workshop involved leaders of information exchange programs, CEOs, CTOs and CIOs from Government, Business and ICT Community, all with a goal of making it easier and cost-effective for all customers to do business with Government.

Here’s a video so you can see what it was all about:

 

Next generation banking a reality

Over the past year or so we’ve been working on our vision for next generation banking. We’ve spoken about this a number of times before – but now, thanks to our friends at ASB and TSB Bank, it’s a reality.

Accounting software and internet banking should be complementary. Think about it – at its heart, Xero accounting software is about financial awareness, insight, and decision-making. Internet banking is about taking financial action and managing your money. It makes sense that the two go hand-in-hand.

With customer consent, data could flow between the two worlds – making each product that much more useful. Transactional data comes into Xero from the bank, where it’s processed and reconciled. If a customer wishes, financial data could be passed back to the bank for a variety of services: for payments; for a loan application; or for sign-up to additional services.

The video shows some of the outcomes of our next generation banking work, illustrated through our integration with ASB. Data can be sent to Xero quickly and easily and payment instructions can be pushed back to the bank for authorisation. In the old world you would manually download data and upload into Xero, or at best, complete a paper application form and send to us for processing. With this approach, your feeds are set up instantly and securely. Similarly, there’s no batch payment files to be downloaded and uploaded into internet banking – they’re sent through frictionlessly.

Watch Steve Jurkovich from ASB talking at Xerocon Auckland 2014 about how the cloud is changing banking and how ASB is embracing new opportunities through its work with Xero.

Banks are conservative organisations, and so they should be – after all, they’re handling your money. But a great deal of innovation for banks comes through collaboration. It would be very difficult for any bank to meet all the needs of its diverse population of customers with the vast plurality of products that would be required. They can’t possibly replicate all the Mints, the Billguards, the SigFigs, the Bill.coms, the Expensifys, the Dwollas, and the hundreds of other services out there that have blossomed throughout the fintech ecosystem  that people have come to rely on. Safe and secure collaboration with established partners like Xero acts as a multiplier or an accelerator to a bank’s desirability to its customers.

Watch out for more banks introducing support for next generation banking soon. Or maybe consider switching to one that already does. The future is bright for those that have.

UPDATE:  If you’re a FastNet Business customer who’s already set up feeds by sending in a paper form, you can still activate direct payment link.  Find the Accounting Setup section in FastNet Business under Administration > Client, and select ‘Automatically Import Payments’ against the accounts you want to make payments from. Follow the process to connect up the feeds, and the next time you create a batch payment file, it will automatically be sent to FastNet Business. Easy.

What people are saying about next generation banking

And it works. Here’s what people are saying about this new generation of banking:

 

The changing face of business leadership in Australia

Last week I attended a roundtable breakfast with five other CEOs from a range of prominent organisations to discuss the changing face of business leadership in Australia. The event was chaired by (Fairfax) BOSS Magazine Editor, Joanne Gray and I was joined by:

  • Matt Barrie, CEO, Freelancer;
  • Peter Birtles, Managing Director and CEO, Super Retail Group;
  • Kate Burleigh, CEO, Intel;
  • Bill Pulver, CEO, Australian Rugby Union; and
  • Ann Sherry, CEO, Carnival Australia

The discussion centred on a range of topics from a recent whitepaper written by Change2020, a management consulting firm in Sydney that specialises in leadership, business, culture development and change management.

Continue reading ›

 

Keeping our people happy – shrugging off my HR shoulder pads

Anne Allen, UK HR Manager, tells us all about her goal of keeping our people happy, engaged and motivated:

As Xero UK’s HR Manager, part of my role is making sure each and every one of us is happy, engaged and loving the job – quite a tall order, as you’d imagine! But in our recent Xero employee survey 92.2% of the UK team said they feel a great sense of commitment to Xero UK. And 90.6% said they’re committed to going the extra mile. That’s an impressively high engagement level, which is great news for the future of the business.

UK Xero team at MK Expo

UK Xero team at MK Expo (Anne second from right)

We’ve grown rapidly over the past year and the power of fresh, enthusiastic recruits and the energising force of newly employed people has definitely charged the Xero batteries and we’re raring to go!  My job will be to help maintain this amazing level of motivation in the team as we continue to expand and take on more and more talented people.

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