There are almost 4000 registered BAS agents in Victoria, but only one is a platinum Xero partner. Here is the story of Ryan Gollan from CFM Bookkeeping, Geelong – and his path to platinum.
Starting out: making clients and connections
In 2010, Ryan was living interstate when he found out his wife was unwell. The pressures of the illness led to them moving back to his parents’ house in Geelong. From their front room he took a punt and created Cash Flow Management (CFM) Bookkeeping – with no clients and no connections.
“I love numbers, trends, improvement and helping people,” he told me. “I was passionate about helping business owners understand their finances and grow their business – I just needed a client to help!”
In October 2011 he became a Xero certified partner and shortly thereafter hired his first team member. “I originally signed up because I realised early we needed to be in the cloud. Signing up with Xero really was a game changer. We added a few more team members whilst still living at my parents’ house and the ‘official’ team meetings were around my parents’ dining table.”
Ryan had zero clients on Xero when he first signed up as a partner. “It took a little while to get momentum – and clients. I was introducing a lot of people to Xero in the early days as they hadn’t heard of it. Funny to think that now!
“My first client to agree was an Insurance assessor – we got them up and running on Xero in February 2012. They loved the fact they could login anytime and see how their business was doing. Previously they’d sent off their information and didn’t know how their business was doing day to day.”
Seven years on: keeping pace with constant change
Fast forward seven years and CFM Bookkeeping have their own office in the Geelong CBD. “Sorry dad, I know you miss the staff catch ups” Ryan said with a chuckle. A team of seven; CFM was awarded the Xero Bookkeeper of the Year in 2014; and, with over 400 clients on Xero, Ryan has become the first bookkeeper in Victoria to reach platinum status! Plus, more importantly, his wife is better.
And, when asked about the biggest challenge along the path, Ryan did not hesitate: the pace of change.
“The accounting and bookkeeping industry is going through massive change at the moment, which is a wonderful thing, and very exciting. It’s a challenge to make sure you keep on top of the latest developments. What worked well five years ago can be ‘old school’ now, so you can’t take anything for granted. Something new today can very quickly become outdated.”
This includes software. “Before Xero, I don’t think other accounting software had changed to any great degree in a very long time. Xero is constantly evolving, changing and improving, which I love.”
Lessons learnt along the way: make your tech do the leg work
As a platinum bookkeeping partner, Ryan knows a thing or two about Xero features. His favourite? “Find and recode – so simple but pure magic! But everyone says that, so I will go with recurring invoices and auto invoice reminders. These two features are awesome for automating your invoicing and taking the pain out of following up late payers.”
He also shares his number one tip for any other Xero bookkeepers looking to follow a similar path. “Learn as much as you can by using Xero yourself every day, and use as many features as you can. Go to Xerocon [Ryan first came in 2012 and hasn’t missed one since], go to the roadshows and explore the Xero App Marketplace.
“Xero isn’t just about accounting and bookkeeping – it’s a platform that allows you to provide many services that can help your clients do business better.”
Future forecast: give more small businesses a new lease of life
When asked which one of his 400 clients stands out along the path, Ryan remembered a client who came to them because they needed help with their cash flow.
“They weren’t making any money despite turning over $440k in yearly sales,” he explained. “They had no certainty around their numbers and large debts they were struggling to pay. It was causing them a lot of stress.”
The team moved their clients onto Xero and Receipt Bank, and took a holistic approach to the finances. “The CFM team don’t just reconcile the books,” Ryan said. “We set KPI and financial targets and meet with clients monthly to discuss cash flow.
“Three years later, that same client’s FY17 sales are set to hit $1.3m with net profit north of $200k. In addition to this they’ve bought an investment property and had two kids!”
As a Geelong local myself, it has been amazing to see the positive impact Ryan has had on the lives of small businesses in our area. Luckily the platinum achievement isn’t the final destination, it’s just another step along the path.