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.
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.
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.
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.
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When I started at Xero just over three years ago, one of the first Xero Add-ons I assisted with certifying was from a small little UK startup app called Receipt Bank. Well, three years on and Receipt Bank are now the most popular add-on for Xero, and recipients of a number of Xero awards.
As much as I love the original blog post (the cheesy background music on the video!), I thought it might be time to do a quick refresher, and cover some of the less obvious, and new features that Receipt Bank provides:
- More than just receipts. In the UK the term ‘receipts’ covers everything – expense receipts, accounts payable invoices etc, but in other parts of the world, it might not be quite as obvious that Receipt Bank supports receipts on expense claims but also accounts payable invoices and spend money transactions.
- Line item extraction. It was a huge leap forward when Receipt Bank recently announced they can now populate Xero with invoice line item details. Receipt Bank automatically splits line item details for original .pdf files – perfect for purchase invoices that need to be split across different accounts.
- Attachments. Receipt Bank creates attachments on all the documents it can in Xero – receipts, bills (accounts payable invoices) and spend money transactions (bank transactions), so you have a complete audit trail.
- Reimbursable and re-billing expenses. Receipt Bank’s integration with Xero enables you to create both an expense report for staff reimbursements and also a draft sales invoice for oncharged costs.
The most impressive development at Receipt Bank over the past three years however, is the unique way they have worked with Xero accounting and bookkeeping partners. Check out just one story here:
Earlier this month, New Zealand’s National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) held a Women in Innovation Summit. Our fearless leader Rod spoke about some of the barriers and opportunities women in tech face these days. A group of us tagged along to watch and came away with some pretty interesting food for thought.
How gender bias affects women in innovation
One of Rod’s key points was that ideally the gender balance of a company should reflect its customer base. While Xero’s stats put us ahead of many other companies in terms of gender balance – Google, for example – there is still room for improvement. For example, while 40 percent of Xero employees are women, only half of these positions are considered to be “hard core tech” roles.
Bias was a central theme of the day. We need more women leaders to speak out with confidence about their success, in order to provide girls and women of all ages with much-needed role models. Both men and women need to remove bias against other women and celebrate their success. Women need to be supported in their success and not be accused of “trying to act like a man”, or fall victim to tall poppy syndrome.
Rod also stressed the importance of encouraging girls in their final year/s of high school to consider tech careers. One attendee mentioned that at a recent visit to a Wellington girls’ high school, students had the overwhelming impression that “tech careers” were for sweaty, overweight, introverted men. It’s imperative kids learn that tech can be so much more than that – glamorous, challenging, exciting, innovative, a great way to earn money, and a means to contribute to the future of the county.
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We’re proud to announce that Rod Drury was honoured for Outstanding Contribution to Technology in NZ at last night’s CIO Awards.
Introducing the award, Graeme Riley — NZ Managing Director for SAP — said that Rod is is one of New Zealand’s leading CEO’s and business entrepreneurs.
From all of us here at Xero, we’d like to say congratulations!
To read more about the evening and the reasons why Rod was honoured with the award, check out this article by The National Business Review:
Retail Express is a point of sale system designed for single-store retail businesses and multi-store retail businesses with up to 80 stores. It powers retail businesses who sell items as furniture and homeware, fashion and accessories, recreational goods and all other general retail. The basic rule is, if you sell something (with the exception of food), Retail Express can help. If your business sells online, or would like to, Retail Express can design, build and integrate a custom webstore.
How it works with Xero
A summary of your daily trading activity moves across from Retail Express to Xero as a journal entry. The detail of this activity remains stored in Retail Express and can be accessed at anytime with a number of easy to use reporting functions.
Specifically, the data that transfers from Retail Express to Xero includes:
- Cost of Sales
- Customer Payments
- Purchase Orders
- Stock Adjustments
Why use Retail Express?
It provides you ultimate control and visibility into your retail business operations and empowers you to make informed decisions and see more profitable growth. The Xero add-on integration streamlines your accounting process and makes reconciliation a quick and easy task.
“The best way to discover Retail Express for yourself is to book a guided tour of the platform and you will see why this is a great product for the Retail space, coupled with Xero to streamline the Accounting” – Robert King, Northern Business Consultants
Try it today
Sign up for Retail Express today by visiting their website or phoning them on 1300 732 618
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JobReady.RTO is a Student Management System designed to reform your Registered Training Organisation. It provides all the tools to grow and automate your RTO and gives peace of mind around communication, compliance, claiming and reporting.
Who is it for?
JobReady.RTO offers Student Management System solutions for established Registered Training Organisations throughout Australia and New Zealand.
How JobReady.RTO works with Xero
You can now manage your finances and accounts more efficiently with JobReady.RTO through integrating with Xero. Connecting to Xero enables you to update your student accounts, manage funding, track invoices, make payments and revise contact information seamlessly and securely from within JobReady.RTO.
Where you can use JobReady.RTO
Any Registered Training Organisation based in Australia or New Zealand can use JobReady.RTO and it’s Xero integration
Try JobReady.RTO today, for free
Guest blog by Ryan Lazanis, CPA, CA of Xen Accounting, Montreal
Bitcoin is a pretty hot topic right now, and for some, it’s a bit mysterious and controversial. How can we have a global virtual currency that’s completely decentralized and completely unregulated? A type of money that isn’t controlled or regulated by any bank or government is enough to make some people uneasy, that is until you learn more about what bitcoin is and how it works. It’s one of the smartest, most forward-thinking innovations of our generation, and it might just reshape the way we do business.
What is bitcoin?
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At Xero, we’re so committed to innovation that we host a product hackathon every quarter for our San Francisco product teams. These allow ideas from our team to get the chance to move from an idea to working prototypes.
We hold two types of hackathon events in our San Francisco office. Our HackIt events last a few days and are focused on innovative ideas with few rules attached. Our ShipIt events give the team the chance to work on something that they want to improve but it must be delivered, ready for release, after two days. It’s understood that there’s no obligation on Xero to ship any of the projects. However, it’s a way of generating ideas that we can use for planning future work on the products.
The winners of our hackathon last week in San Francisco was the Xero Achievers. They worked on the gamification of payroll using badges and Facebook integration. We also had teams working a new tax engine, automated timesheet check in/out using a mobile app, a new architecture framework, a goal tracking app, a conversion tool, hotkey navigations, and an on-screen calculator. It was a great few days, with lots of passion, collaboration, discussions and of course nerf gun battles.
What is a hackathon?
A hackathon is where there is free rein to work on projects the team think will be useful, innovative or cool. Our events kick off with a traditional hot American breakfast to keep the energy levels high for the day. Then, the fun begins.
Regularly scheduled work takes a back seat while the team build, code and hack away on something that interests them – whether it’s an issue they want to solve, a process they’d love to improve, or something completely random they want to try. They’re encouraged to think outside of the box and they have the chance to collaborate with other team members they may not normally work with.
There’s a few key reasons why we do these events:
Thinking out of the box – gives an opportunity for those radical ideas that would never be prioritized.
Fostering innovation – If there are no constraints then anything is possible.
Enjoying work – Culture is a huge part of working here and these hackathons help to make Xero a great, fun, place to work.
These hackathons embody our company culture of creativity, challenging the norm and having fun whilst we do it. Giving our teams the freedom to work on whatever they want for a couple of days keeps them on their toes and challenges them, both creatively and technically. We believe that being surrounded by innovative ideas helps develop new ones, and pushes us to think outside the box.
Already started thinking about a project you’d work on? If you think you might be a good fit for the Xero team, head on over to our careers page to apply for an open position!
To us payments geeks, when Square launched, it just made sense. A simple, elegant solution to small merchants’ credit and debit card acceptance problem? How come I didn’t think of that?!
Square actually solves more pain points for small merchants than meets the eye. Complicated fee structures, expensive hardware and merchant account underwriting requirements were the norm for many years. These archaic demands made it impossible for many small businesses to even qualify, let alone afford a merchant account. Not only did Square remove all of these issues, they did it via a tiny piece of plastic and customer cell phones. In short, Square effectively democratized payments for the small guys, giving every person in the US with a mobile phone access to a point of sale system!
I’ve been a Square fan since the early days and am thrilled to finally offer its merchants an integrated accounting solution that does the heavy lifting for them. Other combined payments and accounting solutions just dump raw data on users. But Square and Xero work together in lock step – intelligently sorting transactional data and building an accurate view of accrual balances. A once tedious process is now made simple with Square and Xero.
To get a taste of how the integration works, check out our video:
With this integration, Xero will automatically sync all of the previous day’s transaction data from Square, summarize it and create an aggregated transaction in Xero – allocating any payments, refunds, fees and sales taxes to the appropriate account. Sellers and small businesses can now save time, which was previously spent manually inputting sales.
Using this approach, Xero will keep track of the money Square owes you while breaking out all Square fees, tips and refunds. In addition to credit card receivables, Xero can also help keep track of cash receipts. Using auto-generated bank rules, each bank deposit from Square will be matched with outstanding receivables using a settlement account methodology. This will also allow for importing of historical transaction data from Square, and quick and easy bulk coding of multiple daily summaries.
We are thrilled to announce this partnership, and hope you enjoy the time that Square and Xero together give back to you.
Xero customer, Andy Ciordia of The Secret Chocolatier is especially excited about the integration. “I used to spend my Sunday afternoons manually dragging, dropping and categorizing my weekly Square transactions into Xero,” says Andy. “This integration gives me my weekends back – I have more time for my family and my business.”
Want to learn more about Square point of sale software for retailers?
- Hear more of Andy’s story over at Xero TV.
- Learn all about Square and Xero on our website.
- Check out the Help Center for information on how to get set up.
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