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Understanding your customers: Introducing Smart Lists, part two

I hope everyone read Craig Walker’s original blog entry: Introducing Smart Lists. This feature broke new ground for us for several reasons. It’s one of the first major Xero features that’s almost wholly dedicated to proactive business management rather than straight accounting. It’s more about accessing and analyzing data than it is creating data entry. Lastly, because it’s not contributing to the general ledger, there’s not a “right or wrong” way to use it. So, I’ve put together this quick demonstration to help kick-start your creative juices:

Now I’ll admit, there was one thing that was always on my mind: If a feature doesn’t drive a quicker end-of-period close or faster tax preparation, will our accounting and bookkeeping partners still get excited about it? Well, as a matter of fact, they should! Even if they don’t plan to use the magic of Smart Lists themselves, there are still great benefits to educate their clients. Let me explain:

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Free up your cash with BlueVine

BlueVine provides small business with advances on outstanding invoices. BlueVine – Xero add-onCredit lines can range from $5,000 to $50,000 and deposits can appear in your bank account within 24 hours. BlueVine helps small businesses when they need working capital. Businesses often need additional capital to pay expenses, take on additional work, or cover payroll. One of the big challenges businesses face is long customer payment cycles and irregular cash flow. It’s a good option for those who don’t easily qualify for a bank loan.

Who is BlueVine for?

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PGG Wrightson feed goes live

PGG Wrightson and Xero accounting softwareFarming in the Cloud has taken another step forward today with phase one of our innovation partnership with PGG Wrightson. PGG Wrightson account holders can now sign up to have their transactions seamlessly fed directly through to Xero. To set this up just follow the instructions at the Xero Business Help Centre.

Mark Dewdney, Chief Executive Officer, PGG Wrightson, said: “We’re delighted to now have this feed up and running – Xero’s innovation is receiving international acclaim but we think that, back here in New Zealand, Farming in the Cloud is set to be a game-changer for farmers and the rural sector in terms of creating greater integration and more collaborative services.

“Farming can be a tough business and we are looking forward to using the power of the cloud to create more value for our customers and help them in managing their accounts and businesses more efficiently.”

Partnerships are now established with all the other major rural suppliers:

PGG Wrightson was the first partner to come on board and we finalized our agreement with them earlier this year. Xero provides real-time data for farmers and helps automate manual transaction entry through direct bank feeds, and rural supplier feeds. Don’t forget to check out the Receipt Bank rural solution which helps automate even more of your receipts and expenses entry into Xero.

Check out the latest Farming in the Cloud update. For more information email farming@xero.com.

 

 

Xero Touch 2.1 for Android

Last Tuesday we published the first major update to Xero Touch for Android since the native app was first released back in February. Read on for a summary of what was in the release, the history of Xero Touch on Android, and the implications of OS fragmentation for support.

The major item you’re likely to notice is initial support for Files for Xero. Previously you could only attach a single picture to a receipt, but now you can attach as many as you like. This creates a foundation for our next two Android features: attaching files to invoices, and accessing the main files inbox.

Xero Touch screenshot

Under the covers, we’ve also refactored segments of the app (particularly authorisation) into Android library projects. Xero Touch isn’t going to be the only mobile app we release, and this refactoring means that a lot more code can be reused for new apps. A more modular codebase also makes it easier for us to develop and test new features.

That’ll come in handy as we move to a more regular release cycle. Already the native version of Xero Touch has seen more regular releases, every five weeks on average (as opposed to five months for HTML5). Our customers also seem to like it a lot more. The HTML5 implementation at one point dropped down to a 2.4 star rating, but the current combined rating for the native releases is over 4 stars! It’s unfortunate that the ratings assigned to the old version of the app persist; this is why the overall app rating is only 3.55.

Version Released Ratings Stars Average
HTML5 1.x 1 Oct ’12 228 700 3.07
Native 2.0.3+ 19 Feb ’14 260 1079 4.15

 

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How CRM will benefit your business in just three words

SMB Tech Tips by Gene Marks: Gene Marks is a small business owner, technology expert, author and columnist. He writes regularly for leading US media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur. He has authored five books on business management and appears regularly on Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC and CNBC. Gene runs a ten-person CRM and technology consulting firm outside of Philadelphia. Learn more at genemarks.com.

Back in the day, when I talked to small business owners like myself, no one knew what CRM (Customer Relationship Management) was. Now, everyone seems pretty familiar with the concept, and the more well-known applications like Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Batchbook. But the sad fact is that even though many know what CRM is, most still aren’t using CRM systems very well. In fact, of the 600 clients my company serves using various CRM systems, I’d say only 20 percent of them are really doing the right things. And what are the right things? It’s all about three words.

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KROMKRATHOG / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1. Integrate. A CRM system should not be on its own island. It should be talking to other systems — which means that your CRM software should be exchanging data with your accounting system, website and other databases. So when you choose a CRM application, make sure it has links into these other systems. When you view a customer’s record, you not only want to see their activities, notes, emails, pipeline and other CRM data but you also want to know their order history and whether or not there are any outstanding invoices.If you’re a Xero user, then check out the many CRM systems that partner and integrate with Xero. Also, Xero just introduced a new CRM-like feature called Smart Lists that let’s you search your customer data to create highly targeted lists that you can export to a CSV file to use via your email system or export to Constant Contact for targeted email marketing campaigns. The main point here is to centralize your customer data. Don’t be stuck doing duplicate entry. Don’t fall victim to bad data. Integrate.

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Are you in the business of storing paper?

Free up space with a paperless officeDavid Worrell, entrepreneur and author of The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Financial Statements, is dedicated to helping small businesses grow through powerful financial and business development strategiesToday he shares his tips for moving to a paperless office.

It seems like we’ve been dreaming of a “paperless office” forever. Now, 44 years later, I can say with confidence that the paperless office is finally possible. In fact, going paperless is now so easy, so prevalent and so powerful, that it’s impossible to ignore.

The paperless office is everywhere

This is not science fiction. More and more industries are going paperless – it will eventually reach your industry too, if it hasn’t already. Consider healthcare – with a US government mandate to implement Electronic Medical Records, even old-school doctor’s offices are going paperless… and realizing the cost savings of automation too. If a doctor can do it, any small business owner can make this work.

How paperless is your industry? If it lags behind, now is your chance to leap-frog your competitors, slash costs and build new digital capabilities. If your competitors are already heading that way, don’t be left behind.

Paperless = powerful

Going paperless is not just about saving trees – it’s about grabbing power.  When you go paperless, you’re transforming business documents from pieces of paper to actual data points, which in turn means you can get all kinds of meaning from that data.

Here’s a great recent example: Xero just released Smart Lists. Smart Lists allows you to use the data you already have on your customers to build targeted marketing campaigns, track down debtors, and search your customers by city, region, last buy date and more. Smart Lists works by analyzing information like invoices, purchasing history and more. If that information was on paper and stored in a file cabinet, creating segmented lists would be too time-consuming to be worthwhile. But with that information stored in the cloud, you can quickly segment it in a meaningful, valuable way.

Start with paperless finances

The simplest way to move toward a truly paperless workplace is to start with the accounting function. Since accounting touches every other aspect of the company, digital accounting will introduce – and spawn – paperless systems in the rest of the organization.

Picking a place to start is simple too. Here are three key products to get you started filing away financial documents and automating payments, record keeping and more.

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Farming in the Cloud update – July 2014

It has been a big few months unveiling of our Farming in the Cloud solution to our New Zealand customers and partners. The farming team (banker, accountant, farmer and farm consultant) can now all work together on one true online platform.

Phase 1 included launching our farming software partner Figured on Farm to the market at Xerocon, running early adopter sessions with 60 accounting firms from around New Zealand, a national roadshow to hundreds of rural professionals, and of course a massive debut at Fieldays.

We were excited to announce our partnership with all major rural supply companies, and continued discussions with key industry bodies including Dairy Base and the Red Meat Profit Partnership to assist the industry deliver real-time benchmarking. As we build out the eco-system it feels like we are bringing an industry together.

We’re kicking into the next phase, which is about extending the farming eco-system. We’re inviting more farming software partners and linking on-farm software and monitoring tools into the farm financial platform to complete one end-to-end platform for rural NZ.  The next phase also includes looking at how we deliver this model globally, so if you’re outside NZ, please email farming@xero.com to register your interest.

Our focus on growth, productivity, and Continue reading ›

 

Legal professionals leap to cloud technology

Xero-Leap 1 lg

Embracing cloud technology comes easily for some. For the busy SME, it’s a natural, logical extension of the way they go about their business – on the road, travelling to meet clients, rarely in the office for longer than a few hours (and even then it’s often a cafe, restaurant or even the kitchen bench at home).

When you consider cloud technology from a different perspective – from, say, the polished shoes of a lawyer in an established and rather traditional law firm – the cloud can be seen as something of an enigma, prompting questions like:

Why should we change? How can the cloud benefit the legal industry? Why should an established firm, which has built success over a long period of time through a certain business model, move everything to the cloud?

And these are fair and reasonable questions to ask – especially when you’re part of a large law firm with a lot of stakeholders who are entrenched in a certain way of managing documents and client material.

But while the jury is still out on whether large law firms will take to cloud technology, smaller firms have embraced it with open arms, paving the way for further innovation in the legal industry.

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Reinventing retail

Technology is having profound impact on retail. Retail precincts form the heart of small towns but the rise of Amazon and other retail websites are putting retail stores all over the world under threat.

Small countries like New Zealand, lacking in scale, are particularly affected. We’ve seen a push for legislation that adds sales tax to overseas purchases to level the playing field, but I’ve always thought a better approach was to change our mindset and compete globally.

It was delightful to see this TV One article over the weekend where Kathryn Wilson has blended a beautiful retail experience with technology.

Kathryn Wilson footwear

Also some great advice from eCommerce NZ on capturing and measuring data to refine what works.

I’m sure many of us feel a little upset when we drive through communities and see empty retail spaces. Rethinking retail so customers are not just in your town but your country, or even the world, can flip this situation around. We can create new location-independent jobs that require great design, marketing and logistics skills.

What I loved about the story was how proactive Kathryn and her team are. There are plenty of marketing specialists and web consultants in every town ready to help retailers navigate this new world.

I hope Kathryn inspires many more retailers to start the journey.

 

Tax tips for home-based businesses in Australia

Tax tips for Australian home-based businesses

Did you know you can claim for cleaning costs and wear-and-tear on your furniture at your home business? Xero Australia Managing Director Chris Ridd explains what you can and can’t deduct.

As the name suggests, a home-based business is one where you operate the business at the home or from the home.

That said, you don’t have to do your work at home to be a home-based business. For instance, a house painter would do most of their work elsewhere, but if they didn’t rent or own other premises other than the home, then that would count as a home-based business as well.

Generally speaking, a home-based business can claim all of the deductions that any other SME can; yet there are also some specific deductions you should be aware of.

There are broadly two types of expenses you can claim related to your home business area: occupancy expenses and operating expenses.

Parts of the home you use for business

Occupancy expenses include rent or mortgage interest, council rates, land taxes and home insurance premiums.

Before you can claim occupancy expenses, you have to pass the Australian Tax Office’s interest deductibility test. This means you must have an area of your home set aside exclusively for your business activities, such as an office or workshop. When assessing this test, the ATO will consider factors including whether you have a sign identifying your business at the front of your house; whether or not the business area is also suitable for domestic purposes; and whether it is used regularly for client visits.

If you pass the test you can claim the proportion of your home mortgage or rent which corresponds to the amount of space you use for your business.

For instance, if the floor area of your home office or workshop is 15 percent of the total area of your home, you could claim 15 percent of your rent or mortgage interest, council rates and insurance.

Deducting part of the home mortgage sounds great, however there’s a potential sting in the tail you need to be aware of. You might have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of your home if you pass the interest deductibility test. This can apply if you ran a small business from home, even if you never claimed – the issue is how much you transformed your home into a place of business.

Operating expenses: The costs of doing business

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