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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.

 

Xero’s 2014 Annual Meeting – 23 July

It’s that time again. After another huge year, we’re looking forward to seeing our valued shareholders in Wellington for our 2014 Annual Meeting.

This year’s Annual Meeting is shaping up to be our biggest yet. You’ll have the chance to meet our new Board members at the new venue – Shed 6, on Queens Wharf. We’re looking forward to giving you a full update on where we’re at and plans for the next year.

We love the opportunity to meet our shareholders so we hope you can make it.

Xero's Annual Meeting in 2013

Last year’s Annual Meeting at Te Papa in Wellington

Details 

The 2014 Annual Meeting of Xero Limited will be held on Wednesday 23 July from 4pm–5.30pm at Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Jervois Quay, Wellington, New Zealand.

2014 Annual Meeting agenda

1. The Chairman’s introductions

2. Formal business and resolutions

3. CEO strategic presentation

4. Shareholder questions

Presentation slides will be viewable on the NZX, ASX and the Xero.com investor page and we plan to have a video of the key presentations on the blog the following day.

Auckland Investor Briefing

For our shareholders in the Auckland area, we will be running an Investor Briefing at the Xero Office, L1, 69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland on Friday 25 July from 10.30am–11.30am.

Please register for the Auckland event by clicking on the link below and following the prompts:

http://events.xero.com/nz/events/1061-auckland-investor-briefing 

Please let us know in the blog comments if you have any questions that you’d like answered on the day

 

 

Xero’s love for Young Enterprise Trust (YET)

Xero has sponsored Young Enterprise Trust (YET) since 2011, although our involvement began much earlier – Rod Drury is an alumni having being involved back when he was a long-haired youth. And since 2010 Graham Shaw, non-exec director of Xero, has been on the judging panel.

I first became involved in 2013 as a mentor for the Enterprise in Action weekend – I’d been at Xero for six months by this stage. The previous year, while running my digital publishing business, I had also been a client of the Icehouse business incubator. I was inspired by the mentoring I received and was looking for ways to apply what I’d learned within Xero. So when requests for mentors went out, I put my hand up.

 

dragons den ak

That weekend was so inspiring, and before it had even finished I was planning on how I’d do it differently the next year. I also came away more confident about my skills and talents, realising my diverse work background wasn’t the hindrance I sometimes thought, but instead a valuable tool-kit of many different skills and qualities.

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Receipt Bank and Xero: Three years on

Receipt Bank and Xero

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:


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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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NACEW Women in Innovation Summit

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.

Melissa Clark-Reynolds and Rod Drury chat about women in innovation

Melissa (left) and Rod had the chance to chat with each other and the audience following their talks.

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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Will the cloud and social media unlock SMB success?

_G9C9936It’s a great time to be a small business. The local and global economy have stabilised after the financial crisis, owning a business can be a fantastic lifestyle choice, it can be a way to shore up your investment future, and New Zealand is ranked third in the world for ease of doing business. Over 97% of NZ businesses have fewer than 20 employees, contributing almost 30% of our GDP, meaning there is a huge network of peers to collaborate with, learn from, and inspire each other.

With the recent release of the government’s 2014 Small Business Report, the Xero team are really proud to see that we are championing many of the core themes outlined in the paper. For example, spending time growing your business and not wasting hours managing your financials and navigating red tape.

I’m a massive NZ Inc fan and a massive champion of growth. If you’re not going down the growth path, whether from a micro business level or as a country, the other road looks awfully painful. With our small businesses being such an important part of the local economy, what concerns me are the challenges that are clearly still being faced which impede the ability for NZ businesses to compete and grow.

Challenges include:

  • The New Zealand small business market is not growing, which is troubling.
  • The lower rate of innovation amongst our SMBs compared to offshore companies.
  • We’re in a global marketplace these days, competing hard for products and services as well as talent and investment dollars. We can’t afford to be on the back foot.
  • The internet has gone way beyond just sharing and finding information (our predominant uses). Leveraging the cloud for collaboration is key. Despite New Zealand being a village, we’re less collaborative than our SMB peers globally.

Why is growth important? Because the statistics show it’s our smallest businesses that are significantly more vulnerable to ‘death’. There are a number of ways to reduce the likelihood of business death;

How do you ensure that ‘death’ doesn’t happen in small business?

  • We MUST free up our SMBs to focus on growing and adding value into their businesses. This means a complete commitment to removing red tape which burdens a business owners operation. Reducing unproductive time means the lifestyle aspects of the business remain possible. I am highly supportive of the gains our government is making in this space, it’s just that the proposed ‘ten year’ plan is too long!
  • To compete locally and globally, we have to increase small businesses access to capital. The newly created R&D tax loss initiative from this year’s budget is one policy that will help small innovative companies.
  • To export small businesses need confidence, talent, and networks. The export market is perhaps the most challenging area of them all, and is the biggest vulnerability for us as a nation when you consider global technology and consumer trends.

Continue reading ›

 

IPA supports small business policy change in Canberra

_MG_7092This week I had the unique opportunity to visit Parliament House in Canberra to take part in a think-tank on small business hosted by Andrew Conway, CEO for the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA).

The one-day event was primarily focused on reviewing and discussing a comprehensive whitepaper that has been been recently developed by the IPA in collaboration with Deakin University. The whitepaper looks at a range of key issues facing small businesses in Australia, and aims to provide substantive policy input to the Federal Government. The document is due to be submitted to the Federal Government in December.

Casting my eye around the room, I saw a who’s-who of influential people in attendance, so I knew this was going to be a good, productive session. There were representatives from government, business, regulators and industry bodies, including Australian Small Business Commissioner (Mark Brennan), ACCC Deputy Chairman (Dr Michael Shaper), CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (Kate Carnell AO), as well as senior executives from NAB, REIA, Telstra, Family Business Australia and more.

Central themes of the day

Six key topics were covered over the course of the day, and each one was fleshed out into a well-considered list of new initiatives and recommended policy changes that can positively impact and invigorate the small business sector.

  1. A simplified and targeted small business tax system which supports small business growth
  2. Australia’s small business are appropriately regulated – providing a safety net without stifling entrepreneurship
  3. Competition policy which supports and promotes small business by creating a level playing field
  4. Adequate and affordable access to responsible finance for small business
  5. Promoting productivity through innovation and use of technology (such as Standard Business Reporting)
  6. Links to our regional trading partners being facilitated to open export markets for small business

The Honorable Bruce Billson MP, Federal Minister for Small Business joined us as the beginning of the day. His passion for this whitepaper was clear. And so it should be, with his department declaring an ambitious agenda to cut red tape in small business to the tune of $1B per annum during the Liberal Party’s current term in government.

Minister Billson made some impressive announcements about reducing SME reporting burdens from 260 down to 26, and the government’s recently-announced ‘Digital by Default’ initiative, which is all about small business embracing online and cloud technologies to create more seamless exchange of data with government bodies. It was also great to hear Minister Billson give a shout out to Xero, commending us for our ground breaking efforts in embracing SBR in our recent tax platform. Continue reading ›

 

Kiwibank launches support for next-gen banking, and new feeds arrive for Australia

Kiwibank has launched support for next-gen banking with XeroFollowing hot on the heels of ASB, Kiwibank has also launched support for next-gen banking with Xero, providing further validation of the vision to bring internet banking and accounting software closer together.

Kiwibank has added support for automated provisioning to their business banking customers, who can now quickly set up feeds for Xero. They can also send payments from Xero back to internet banking for approval.

By creating connections between Xero and the data and systems provided by the banks, businesses can have better control of their financial position. Plus, with the help of their advisors, they can now react more responsively to changing business dynamics.

But our vision goes beyond the simple flow of transaction data from the bank to the accounting system. Our platform will allow customer instructions to be seamlessly sent to the bank from Xero, which allows accounts and feeds to be created automatically. This removes the traditional friction associated with dealing with banking systems, while providing better visibility and control over a small business’s financial position.

And this is just the beginning. When customers connect Xero with the banks and their systems, their businesses can take advantage of additional banking products and services. This will allow them to react faster than ever before, and give the banks more opportunities to help their customers be successful.

By establishing relationships with ASB Bank, TSB and now Kiwibank, Xero is opening up new opportunities for small businesses to interact with their banks. This will save them time, improve their financial visibility and, ultimately, give them even more control over their business and its financial needs.

To use this service, sign in to internet banking and visit Your Settings & Services, click on Xero Services and follow the instructions.

And for our Australian customers, direct feeds have arrived for:

Rural Finance – provides banking services to the Victoria region, and in particular to the agricultural business sector. More details are in our Help Centre. Feeds are available now.

Maitland Mutual - services clients in the Maitland and Hunter valley regions of New South Wales, and are one of the oldest building societies in Australia. They’re providing feeds to Australian customers.  Feeds are available now.

IMB (Illawarra Mutual Building Society) - is the oldest building society in New South Wales and the third largest building society in Australia. We are currently transitioning existing IMB customers over to direct feeds – we’re accepting applications now and feeds will start on the 9th of July. More details are available in the Help Centre.

Our current list Australian direct feeds is available in our Help Centre.  More to come soon.