Turning your business around

From minimum wage to powerful profits: The cloud jump that gave a bookkeeping business a new jump-start

Erin Smith
Xero

Di Pulfer is the founder of Blitzin Books, a bookkeeping practice that uses cloud accounting to proactively streamline and simplify business operations.

Here she explains how consolidating disparate systems onto the cloud – with Xero at the hub – enabled her to grow her business income by 43% in seven months, and draw a solid salary for herself for the first time in eight years.

When I moved to Mackay in Queensland eight years ago, I built up enough bookkeeping work to keep myself busy. Accountants would refer more business and I’d say, “I’ve got enough, thank you!” But they’d always ask me to see this one client just this once. Most of those clients are still with me now.

I started taking on staff to service my growing client base – and now have a team of seven bookkeepers. But because I’d started Blitzin Books by myself, I started with no set systems or structures. Everything was in my head, so that’s where we began.

Multiple systems causing a major headache

The more staff I took on, the more the business felt the pains of any inherited inefficiencies – like the multiple systems I’d been working across.  

At that time we had clients on practically every bookkeeping program: Xero, Reckon, QBO, MYOB and a few in between. It was too time-consuming to train my team on each one and, as a result, only certain bookkeepers knew certain systems. Meanwhile, I used Excel spreadsheets, Word documents and Pure Bookkeeping templates to manage our workflow. It was a very manual process and I’d work nights and weekends to keep up with it all.

Although I was pouring all these hours into my business, I could only afford to pay myself a very minimum wage. I grew tired and disgruntled and needed to make serious changes fast.

Hello cloud, goodbye spreadsheets

I turned the team's focus to cloud accounting using Xero for our clients. As we moved through the process and the firm reached silver status in the Xero partner program, Blitzin Books gained access to Xero Practice Manager. It allowed me to ditch my spreadsheets and move to a cloud-based system – and the results have been unbelievable. I’ve generated so many efficiencies – from staff timesheets to invoicing, and from hourly work to packaged pricing. Now our systems are all in the cloud and seamlessly work as one.

Proactive client service

The service we offered our clients stepped up a level too. On desktop software, we were always three to six months behind. Clients could get themselves into trouble by the time they handed us all their documents so we could input the data for them. Then they would ask “what’s happened, where did all the money go?”

Now that we have access to up-to-date data, we’re on the ball straight away. We can say, “You’re going to run into cash flow problems this month, here’s how to avoid it.” They really appreciate that proactive service. We give answers before anyone asks. 

A turnaround in practice profitability

During the first seven months using Xero and Xero Practice Manager, my business income increased 43% from the same period in the previous year, and I was able to pay myself a decent wage for the first time in eight years. None of that came through extra staff; it was all down to increased efficiency.

I can’t tell you the impact that’s had for me. While my business always paid for my staff and the basics, I couldn’t always afford unexpected costs like replacement of computers immediately. Now my bank balance is increasing and I’m falling back in love with my business. The change is like a breath of fresh air.

A short-time investment for long-term gains

It took a few months for everyone in my team to learn Xero – and it’s easy to think you’re too busy to put in the time. But once we moved through the training and earned our certifications, the efficiencies just rolled in.

Now my staff love Xero because it’s so quick for them to do their work. The instant fix-ups that you can do with the find and recode function, for example, can take hours on another system. We appreciate every one of those little things because they make such a big difference to us.

Moving to the cloud also gives my team the transparency to take more responsibility for jobs. Our bookkeepers like doing their timesheets in Xero Practice Manager, for example, because it tracks time against jobs. They can assess how they’re performing against expectations and adjust the way they work.

None of us would ever go back.

Next steps for improvement

There’s always room for improvement and we’ll continue to refine our use of Xero Practice Manager. We’re not yet using scheduling to its full potential, for example, so I’ve set up time with the Xero team to help us improve.

But mainly I’m just looking forward to working on my business now. With these cloud-based systems in place, I can meet new clients, set them up, and hand them over to my team without a second thought. I’ve even decided to take a writing course in Vietnam so that I can update my website and offer new programs. I want to offer guidance on using Xero and share all the tips and tricks I’ve learned that have changed my business.

When I do, I’ll admit my one lesson to anyone thinking about moving to the cloud: I should have done this years ago.

 

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