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Introducing Smart Lists

For the last few years I’ve been in the US building a very small team whose sole focus is on delivering new features that drive additional value to our customer base. Innovations like Online Invoicing and Files have come out of this team. Today I’d like to introduce Smart Lists.

Having run my own small business before starting Xero, and after talking to a lot of our customers over the last eight years, I’ve learned quite a bit about how small businesses work. Actually, both the most amazing, and the most frustrating, thing about building software for small businesses is that while there are a lot of similarities across small business, every business is unique in some way. It’s beautiful. And the reason why we wanted to build them beautiful software.

When I ran a business the one thing that always struck me was how hard it was to find new customers. It was much easier making my existing customers extremely happy so that we could do repeat business. What I’ve realized is that for many small businesses, this is their prefered approach. In fact, according to Bain & Company, it costs six–seven times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. This is a key metric for small businesses of all types, and it highlights the importance of the connection you have with your existing customer base.

We’ve built Smart Lists because marketing to your existing customer is important. Smart Lists is all about unlocking the treasure trove of information you store in Xero about your customers – what they’ve purchased, how much they’ve spent, the last time you invoiced them, where they’re located and so on.

Smart Lists is essentially an advanced search over your existing customer base, using the accounting platform as the search engine. This search lets you generate highly targeted lists that you can then use to sell to, chase for payment, gather information about, or basically anything else you want!

Many small businesses don’t have Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. With Smart Lists, you’re able to communicate with organisations that are already your customers, using the data you’re updating everyday – it’s far less hit and miss.

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Xero release: 23 June 2014

This morning we released a ton of updates to Xero. Here are some of the highlights – check out the Xero release notes to see the rest.

Xero TV on the login screen

23 June 2014 Xero release includes Xero TV on the login screen

We now display education videos right on the login screen making it easier for all users to be smarter with Xero, and discover new features. Our education team has been investing significantly to create useful content for Xero TV and it’s the best place to learn about Xero.

Support for four decimal places on unit prices

We’ve heard you! Plenty of you have been asking for Xero to support unit prices with more precision – a bit more to it than you might think but we hire smart people, so good to be able to tick this off. For most of you it will just work – however, if you use DOCX invoice templates you need to make a small update.

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Cutting your AU small business tax bill

small business tax timeThe end of the financial year is approaching in Australia and small business owners need to start planning their tax strategies. Here are our tips on how to reduce your small business tax bill by timing your income and expenses.

We all know that when you run your business, you want to maximise income and keep expenses as low as possible.

But when it comes to tax time you should aim to do the opposite – minimise income and maximise expenses in order to reduce your assessable income and the amount of tax you have to pay.

Of course, you don’t do this by turning away customers or needlessly spending money!

Instead, it’s all in the timing. In other words, you bring forward expenses into the current tax year, and defer income into the following tax year.

While you might eventually have to pay tax on the money you save, in the meantime the extra money is yours to use as you see fit – to invest back into your business, to reduce your borrowings and hence your interest payments, or to earn interest in the bank.

Crunch the numbers: cash vs accruals

Many small business-owners start out with cash accounting – that is, recognising the income and expenses in your business when they are physically paid.

Timing strategies work best with accrual accounting so, if you haven’t already, you might consider making the change.

Accrual accounting recognises income and expenses when you issue an invoice or receive a bill, not when you receive or pay money. This accounting method creates debtors and creditors, so it’s a good idea to use online accounting software like Xero, which makes it easy for you to keep track of your business’s cash flow and its true financial position.

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Does great yoga instructor equal great business owner?

Yoga instructor Amy at San Francisco Small Business Week

Our very own Amy Vetter, Global VP of Education & Enablement, recently took center stage at San Francisco Small Business Week 2014.

Amy provided an engaging, TED Talk-style presentation around the many life and small business lessons she learned as a yoga studio owner. That’s, Amy — CPA, yoga instructor, mother and small business owner.

Amy talks about how she managed to uniquely and successfully merge ledgers with different types of yoga and how a (business) prenup saved her partnership before it even got started.

Namaste and enjoy the journey with Amy:

Great yoga instructor may not equal great business owner


Data shows cash flow benefits of online accounting

After aggregating some 16 million invoices in our database, we’ve found out that worldwide on average Xero users are getting paid more than two weeks faster than they were in late 2011.

In October 2011, Xero users were getting paid after an average of 48 days. Now they’re getting paid in an average of 33 days – a 15 day difference.

Fewer days to payment infographic_thumb (1)

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Changes to Xero reports

Today marks the first in a series of updates we have planned to introduce a brand new way of running reports in Xero. We’ve designed these new reports from the ground up, taking into account the feedback we’ve received from you and they’re looking great.

To get the ball rolling we’ve launched a new set of Aged Reports and are currently working on a Depreciation Schedule, Disposals Schedule, Account Transactions, and Profit and Loss reports.

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Victoria Crone: What the budget means for NZ small business

Small business cashflowThe New Zealand Budget is predictable and consistent, in stark opposition to the bold and risky budget recently released in Australia. But this reflects the different cycles each country is in, as well as a new government vs. one in an election year.

There are three main wins for small business in the 2014 budget – initiatives that deliver cashflow, resources, and support networks. Getting more cash into businesses, whether through tax breaks, people and networks, or support for revenue growth, along with more stability that a predictable budget certainly delivers, means businesses can continue to have the confidence to grow, hire, increase profits, and drive innovation which feeds our broader economy and the lifestyles we’re able to live.

Wins for small business

It’s good to see the Government following through on its announcement last year around R&D tax losses. We’re now expecting around $60m of cash back into businesses over four years. This is great news for start-ups, as well as for more mature businesses. Given the disruptive nature of technology on our business model, there are businesses that need to re-design their products and services, which is expensive, so this R&D incentive could help here too. New Zealand doesn’t spend enough on R&D, so this is some gentle encouragement for the private sector to spend more money on things like people and prototypes to continue driving our economic growth.

The second initiative in here is the almost $500m reduction in ACC levies which puts cash back in small businesses’ bank accounts.

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NZ Budget 2014 – implications for small businesses

We’ve talked to ASB Economist Nathan Penny, Xero Head of Accounting Grant Anderson and Managing Director of Xero New Zealand Victoria Crone to hear their thoughts on what the NZ Budget 2014 means for small businesses.

Check out the video here:


Globe trotting coffee pioneer finds his place in the cloud

As the Director of St Ali FamilySalvatore Malatesta has coffee houses in Melbourne, Sydney and London. Salvatore is one of the men behind the third wave coffee movement in Melbourne. Between his cafes and popular specialty coffee brands, his expansion shows no signs of stopping. One of the keys that helps him along the way is Xero cloud accounting software.

Cloud accounting converts

“Xero has given me the ability to go online whenever I like and drill down and see the individual transactions. It’s not just a number – it’s a number with a receipt attached to it, so I can act on stuff very fast,” Sal said.

Sal’s accountant, Jane Meinert of Base Ten Advisory, couldn’t agree more.

“One of the biggest things about moving to Xero is that owners and entrepreneurs are starting to look at the information more and taking a bit more of a role in the performance of their business,” said Jane.

Cloud accounting has completely revolutionized the way he runs his business.

“I’m a massive fan of game changers and disruptors. In the airline industry, Branson did it with Virgin, Uber have done it with cabs and Xero has done it with accounting software.”


Batchbook Sales Guide for Small Business

Batchbook Sales Guide

Our friends over at Batchbook have recently created an awesome sales guide for people who want to get their sales processes just right. As they put it, the guide is for “the innovators, the optimists, the small budgets with big plans and the “I just hate pushy people” people.”

We were thrilled to be asked to contribute to Batchbook’s sales guide. Small business is one of our main audiences, so it’s great to be able to provide advice to the small biz community. As cloud accounting is one of our key areas of expertise, we wrote about how it fits into the sales process and lets businesses streamline their sales and invoicing.

You can check the article out here:

Streamline sales and invoicing with cloud accounting software

The sales guide as a whole features a range of articles that provide actionable advice for small businesses. Not only is there advice on the techniques you should be using, there’s also some important info on which tactics you should avoid at all costs. Read about traditional sales approaches, creative methods and real-life examples of small business sales strategies.

What the sales guide covers

For starters, there are a bunch of tips that introduce you to sales basics. Learn how to come up with a sales strategy that’s tailored to your business’ needs; figure out the difference between marketing, sales, and service; and get the low down on the two main ways to sell.

What’s more, there are articles to help you learn how to build your sales process:

  • discover how to find leads and pick the right ones
  • find out why the perfect pitch is so important and how to do it
  • check out tips on how and when to follow up and hand off a customer
  • learn why it’s so important to treat your customers like friends.

If your small business or someone you know is eager to learn more about the sales fundamentals, it’s definitely worth taking a look at Batchook’s sales guide. Check it out here:

Doing Sales Right – a Sales Guide by Batchbook