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Xero welcomes Single Business Number for all NZ businesses

The Hon. Steven Joyce, nbnMinister for Economic Development and The Hon. Craig Foss, Minister of Commerce have today announced a Single Business Number for all businesses by 2017.

The Government has committed to introduce legislation early in the next term that will specify the deadline and extend the ability to allocate the NZ Business Number to all NZ businesses.

Xero will invest to bring the benefits of a Single Business Number to our (already) over 100,000 small business customers in New Zealand. We’re excited by the opportunity for the private sector to work alongside Government to reduce the costs of compliance for small businesses and create entirely new services over the business number that will streamline business.

We’re super proud to have been behind this since the beginning. This next step builds on what we talked about at the launch of the Single Business Number and at Xerocon earlier this year, so we really welcome today’s announcement by the government to broaden and include all businesses, such as sole traders.

Businesses will only have to provide their information once, rather than different information to a host of government agencies – reducing costs and generally making it easier for businesses interacting with government agencies. It’s also very exciting that there is a view to link with similar initiatives in Australia.

Today’s announcement reflects a new wave of thinking that Xero is right behind – working with Government to make life easier for small businesses and give them every opportunity to prosper.

 

New direct feeds from Silicon Valley Bank

We’re pleased to announce our second direct Silicon Valley Bankbank feed in the United States from our friends at Silicon Valley Bank.  Silicon Valley Bank is well known to the San Francisco start-up industry, and has been a popular choice for California’s leading technology businesses and investment community.

By linking Xero directly with SVB’s online banking platform, you get reliable overnight delivery of the prior day’s bank transactions directly within Xero.  As a result, you can make smart business decisions by getting an accurate and comprehensive view of your finances, without the hassle and costly mistakes caused by out-of-date cash flow balances.

Silicon Valley Bank has also recently launched operations in the United Kingdom, and we’re pleased to report that UK customers will also soon be able to apply for bank feeds with Silicon Valley Bank, giving us our second direct feed in the UK.

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Qantas radio features Xero MD Chris Ridd

Xero Australia MD Chris Ridd recently gave an interview to Alan Kohler for his Talking Business show on Qantas inflight radio. Chris talks with Alan about the growing interest in cloud accounting and the value of Software as a Service (SaaS). He discusses the momentum we’re seeing in Australia, and the increasing number of customers signing up to Xero every business day.

The interview will be played on all Qantas domestic and international flights during July. Or you can listen to Chris’s interview online.

Xero Australia MD Chris Ridd on Qantas Radio

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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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Mulcahy and Co. make Xero Platinum Partner in record time

I’ve been working with Mulcahy and Co., a mid-sized firm based in Ballarat, for a while now and I’m excited that they have made it to Xero Platinum Partner.

As one of the top five firms in the region, they look after an interesting mix of clients, with around half of their client base being farmers and the rest being SMEs in Ballarat and beyond (they also have clients in most other states).

From the moment I caught up with Jamie and Chris Mulcahy – the charismatic brothers who set up the firm in the late 90s – and Mark Cunningham, who’s been a team member since 2003 and a Partner since 2010, it was clear they were the kind of guys with boundless energy to grow their business and help their clients do the same.

What’s really blown us away is how quickly Jamie, Chris and Mark and their team have progressed from Bronze to Silver and now Platinum Partner. Starting in March 2013, they got to Gold Partner just a few months later in July and then leapt ahead to Platinum Partner in June of this year, adding 500 Xero clients in just 15 months. And they’re the first independent firm in Australia to reach this milestone, which is a stellar achievement.

Clearly, an effort like this deserves a big pat on the back (and then some), so we invited Jamie, Chris and Mark (pictured below with Stuart McLean, Xero’s Chief Revenue Officer, Chris Ridd, MD Xero Australia, and myself) to our Melbourne office for a chat about how they did it.

Xero Platinum Partner Mulcahy and Co. with Stuart, Chris and Jeremy

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Setting up shop overseas – a new place for your add-on

There are now over 300 add-ons available to increase the functionality of Xero and let you create a system that precisely fits your business needs. That flexibility is something we’re exceptionally proud of. And it’s something that our clients love.

As Xero has grown, so have our add-on partners’ businesses, and many are expanding into new territories and new overseas operations. Vend is a responsive point–of–sale (POS) system, Spotlight Reporting is business intelligence that creates fast, efficient performance reports and Receipt Bank is an ingenious tool for making your expenses more efficient – and all of these businesses have been blazing a trail by opening global offices outside their home territory.

We caught up with Richard Francis, founder of Spotlight Reporting, Vaughan Rowsell, founder of Vend, and Michael Wood, co-founder of Receipt Bank, to hear about the opportunities and challenges they faced when moving outside their local territory.

Richard Francis of Spotlight Reporting at Accountex 2014

Richard Francis of Spotlight Reporting at Accountex 2014

How difficult was it to get Spotlight up and running in New Zealand to begin with?

RF: “Perhaps the biggest challenge was deciding to start out as ‘Xero only’ – supporting Rod and Hamish and their vision from day one. We started out as the first independent Accounting Firm Partner (Francis Consulting), where we were already using cloud as much as possible, and then Spotlight Reporting was one of the very first add-ons (alongside the likes of Vend and Unleashed). Being ‘Xero only’ in the early days in particular meant you only had a limited user base, albeit a fast-growing, highly-engaged one.”

Did you have a similar experience when setting up Vend as a business?

VR: “Getting the initial product built was the key part, and making sure it met the needs of those early customers. You can’t underestimate the amount of work required to get this absolutely right.

But even then, once you have built the first version of the product, then you are really only at the starting line. The really hard stuff comes next. Finding customers and growing like crazy. Raising capital from investors early on helped, as it provided the fuel to really start to grow, and build out the initial Vend team. Getting the right people on board early really helps with success. You can’t do it all by yourself.”

When you started Receipt Bank in the UK did you have a comparable experience when growing your customer base?

MW: “I would agree with Vaughn – there is a huge amount of work involved in building a product that meets the needs of customers. From day one our aim was to build a product that saved time for small businesses but which could also create huge efficiencies for firms of bookkeepers and accountants. The fact that we were just concentrating on the UK (at that time) made things much easier – each time we have entered a new country we have worked closely with local accountants and bookkeepers to refine the product appropriately.”

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