Now in its 10th year, Sleeter Group’s Accounting Solutions Conference in Las Vegas has become a mainstay in the accounting industry with accountants, bookkeepers, thought leaders, and vendors convening around the world of accounting.
We’ve attended for three years now and have seen the conference evolve from a desktop-centric to a more cloud-centric feel. The proliferation of online apps catering to the needs of accounting professionals was very apparent across the trade show floor. It’s really cool to see this sea change of accounting professionals picking up cloud tools and really starting to understand the power of online accounting solutions.
Below is a photo of one of our happy new Gold Partners, Carol Hower from TeamWorks. She has jumped into the new world of online accounting and is loving it.
Intuit vs. Xero
The playful jabs throughout the conference between Intuit and Xero are a good sign of healthy competition. Accountants and small businesses all over the world are going to benefit. Intuit hasn’t had a credible challenger in the accounting space and it’s time they did. Here’s our CEO Rod Drury with Intuit CEO Brad Smith:
When I first started at Xero just under two years ago I was asked how I thought Intuit would respond to Xero’s entry into the US. It was pretty clear to me that they had two choices. One was to buy us out and the other was to try to emulate our success and compete. Since we were not, and are not for sale, option two is the only way forward.
The Xero platform is one of the keys to Xero’s success. The software is built around a solid global accounting engine designed for the cloud to connect small businesses and their business advisors.
The Xero platform from the early days
We started with a big vision and were fortunate to have the resources for real research and development to build the accounting system we always wanted. It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the foundations without constraint. This is what makes Xero unique, we had no legacy and were able to build it right.
Check out this video with Kirk Jackson, one of the very first developers at Xero. Together we go behind the scenes on the development of the software from the early days and how some great technical decisions are allowing for continuous innovation from Xero in the small business and accounting markets.
It’s these foundations, and the Xero platform, that allow Xero to move much faster than the incumbents.
[Update: The session with Mark Mader went really well. He gave some history of the company, the early years before it started its triple digit growth, then he did a product demo of some of the key features that differentiate Smartsheet from spreadsheets like Excel and Google's, like hierarchal rows, emailing of sections, and cell histories.
Mark emphasized the need for SaaS companies to focus on keeping the product easy to learn and delivering value. There's also the integration with other online software including Google Apps and the importance of working with the tools that your customers use. He doesn't shy from using Excel himself, although it getting less over time. All in all it was a well spent evening hearing Mark's experiences and chatting over a drink and nibbles with him and everyone else who came along.]
Smartsheet is a popular collaborative project and work management tool and has been a very welcome addition to the suite of tools we use here at Xero. There are many teams across our business using it everyday to track and collaborate on a variety of work projects and processes.
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Handy features like scenario planning for potential issues and seasonality means you can get rid of the spreadsheets and rely on an app that makes forecasting easy enough so that anyone can use it. It syncs with Xero so your forecast is always up to date.
Who is it for?
Float has been designed so anyone that runs a small business can use it to plan their future cash flow. There are plans that cover everyone from sole traders right through to larger finance teams.
And just like Xero, you can invite your accountant in to help out too.
Following on from last week’s TV interview with Peter Switzer, I was again in the hot seat at Sky News studio. This time I was speaking with Nigel Freitas, host of Technology Behind Business.
Since the last time I spoke to Nigel on the launch of our listing on the ASX, Xero shares have risen 275%. There was a lot of news to update him on, especially Xero’s recent capital raise, our plans for the funding, and our strategy for taking on some of our bigger competitors.
We talked about the competitive landscape in Australia and the investment needed to fuel future growth. We see this as a big point of difference between Xero and some of our competitors in the Australasian market. We’re excited about the opportunities the funding will bring for Xero as a global leader in accounting software.
Check out the interview below:
A month ago in Chicago I was fortunate to attend a cloud conference for a future add-on. As the representatives demonstrated how to move the data from QuickBooks into their solution, it was clear how painful it was – multiple steps, saving of files, finding files, backup required, and validation of the integrity of the systems after importing the data. In contrast, when they demoed the integration (in beta) with Xero, it was simple, smooth and – well – worked as expected. Night and day difference.
As a follow-up, I took the stage, talked about Xero and fielded questions from the crowd. Like most conferences and other speaking events I attend, the first question was, “This is great, I have been waiting for an alternative to QuickBooks and I love your product. But can you migrate my data from QuickBooks to Xero?”. People leaned forward… the room got quiet… and I responded, “Yes. Yes we can. You provide your QuickBooks file, and we’ll provide you a Xero organization with all your data in it.” The huge applause from the audience, to be honest, felt pretty good. (Note: We are talking Quickbooks US only)
QuickBooks conversion has always been regarded as something hard, complicated and almost impossible to do. In July Gene Marks wrote in a Forbes article that “No one’s figured out migration. They may talk a good game, but none of these vendors have really come up with a seamless way to migrate data from your old system to theirs.” Well, Gene we’ve done it and we are working on making it easier and easier every day.
As you might have heard last week in the US press, we announced the release of Xero’s free QuickBooks conversion service. No more manually entering in conversion balances. No more recreation of transactions. No more confusion regarding conversion balance dates – just provide us a file and we’ll do all the rest. It is something that the industry has been waiting for, deemed by some as the last barrier to elevating Xero as THE alternative to Intuit’s QuickBooks in the US.
But what products, versions and data do you support?
Following on this week’s news on our updated Xero Touch iOS App, we’re very pleased to announce Xero Touch was last night named winner in the Line of Business and Best Web App categories at the 2013 Australian Mobile Awards in Sydney, which “celebrates creativity, courage and innovation in mobile achievements.”
The app enables small businesses to use key Xero features when they’re away from their desks. It also offers a range of features that are only possible with a mobile device, such as the ability to instantly capture and attach photos of receipts for expense claims.
So much work in all businesses happens away from the computer and office, so it makes sense to enable people to manage their data wherever they are. With the Xero Touch app, our customers manage their information on the move. Wherever people are, they can stay productive and in control of their business by creating invoices, reconciling their bank accounts and much more.
Our Help Center provides a wealth of information about using Xero, including “how-to”, “getting started”, “about” and “troubleshooting” content. Over the past few months we have increased the number of videos within the help centre and these are proving popular with customers.
We’ve now created a short 2 minute user survey and are asking for your participation and insights. We would love to hear about your experiences, including when, why and how you use the Xero Help Center. We want to make sure we are providing the information you want, when you want it.
Our goal is to provide relevant step by step information that’s easy to locate when needed. We want to provide it in various formats because we know everyone learns differently.
We’d appreciate 2 minutes of your time to give us your point of view and help us make the Xero Help Center even better. Thanks!
From time to time we get the question, why doesn’t Xero support offer phone assistance?
We know that busy small business owners hate waiting on the phone to speak to someone who often can’t even help them. We also want to ensure that when you talk to someone at Xero, that person can solve your problem, as quickly as possible.
Trying to guess how many people to have sitting around waiting for customers to call is an impossible problem to solve. So we deliberately came up with a different model, where you can tell us the problem, automatically giving us as much information as possible, then get on with your business. Then one of our Xero customer experience (CX) team can have a look at what’s going on, let you know what to do, or give you a call to sort things out.
This video explains how Xero support works.
We track our response times and the number of contacts it takes to resolve a problem closely. If we see times slipping that gives us the business case to hire and train new customer experience team members.
Continuing the strong momentum we have seen in Australia, I was invited to speak on Sky Business News by Peter Switzer, host of Switzer TV and recent Xerocon MC. The focus was on the imminent shift among SMEs to the cloud. I also spoke about Xero’s strategy in the Australian market and why our partners are such strong advocates for our company.
The success we have seen in Australia is huge. We are signing up 200-300 new clients every day, and have grown to 79,100 paying customers. This is almost two and half times the previous year. It has proven that small business owners want an alternative to traditional desktop solutions.