Burton Li started off on an unlikely path to bookkeeping.
As a college student, he was a political activist, working at an anti-war newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2002, he met a CPA who offered him an internship. Over the next seven years he continued bookkeeping while at the same time doing political work and touring with his band, The Botticellis.
All of his bookkeeping work was done onsite, riding around bike messenger-style from one client to the next. In 2009 he started hiring employees and that’s when Sutro Li was born.
He ditched his bike in 2014 when he moved his clients to Xero.
“I used to spend a lot of energy running around town,” Li says. “Xero has been great for our business model in terms of time management and work-life integration. Now all the work can be done from my office and I can have a life outside of work.”
Li runs the business with his wife, Trupti. Their office is located close-by to his house in San Francisco’s Outer Richmond district. When he pops over to the house during the day, he can’t stop in without having a chat to his two-year-old daughter, Vera; who has a lot to say.
Today, Li’s team of nine works with a range of nonprofits and creatives.
Xero in on what you love
Li still plays a range of instruments and, although he may not be living the rock-and-roll lifestyle as much these days, he still practices and performs occasionally with his current band: Sandy’s – an indie rock outfit who plays a mix of ‘surfy’ pop with some melancholy mixed in. He has been playing bass with Sandy’s for three years.
The band practices at a surf shop in Mill Valley, about 30 minutes north of San Francisco. The surf shop has a warehouse out the back with a skate ramp and recording studios.
Sandy’s has a couple of shows coming up in the Bay Area, and maybe even abroad in the future.
Making the move up north
Li says he and his wife love getting outdoors. They spend much of their spare time hiking and fly-fishing.
Li says that being on Xero has enabled them to move their business north. The family just closed on an a-frame cabin in Truckee, about three hours outside of San Francisco.
He says they’re leveraging the cloud model of running a business using Xero. He also mentions Xero offers the flexibility he and his clients need.
“We deal with customization,” Li says. “We work with our clients to build workflow they need using Xero. We find out what a client needs to move forward and work with them on that.”
Li and his wife enjoy fly-fishing because of its tradition and the fact that it’s a more challenging form of the sport.
“You’re getting out there and putting something out there that looks like food rather than going out in a boat, putting real food out there and sitting there,” Li says.
Out on one of the rivers in Truckee, he and his wife have given nicknames to particular sections of the river where memorable catches have occurred.
“The spots are named for where there has been a heartbreak and then redemption,” Li says.
There are two spots aptly named ‘Redemption 1 and 2’ and also ‘Persistence’. He says two of the best catches were made by his wife at Redemption 1 and 2. He describes one of those moments.
“Trupti was standing in the middle of the river when a fish jumped out of the water, she got excited and gripped down on the line too tight,” Li says. “The fish got away, but not before it bent the hook straight.”
Li says they later went back to the same spot and hooked a 22-inch Rainbow Trout.
Li is just one of the growing number of accountants and bookkeepers who are using Xero to work anywhere, anytime. These professionals are being given back valuable time that can now be spent pursuing their passions and living the life they truly want.