Sharpening your client's business management solutions

David Walker

Xero is a great system for accounting, and it can be much more: the centre of an ecosystem filled with add-on programs that help manage all sorts of businesses, from plumbing to fine dining.

There are over 500 time-saving apps that connect to Xero’s API, and there’s sure to be at least one that’s right for your client. One example is Re-Leased, designed by to automate all of the repetitive data entry and calculation tasks for landlords. Re-Leased calculates monthly invoices, implements scheduled rent increases and flags rent reviews as necessary. As with other add-ons, data flows seamlessly from Re-Leased into Xero for accounting and invoicing purposes.

For many users, this technology does more than just ease time-consuming tasks. It also opens up a broader conversation between accountants and bookkeepers and their clients about the state of their business.

Creating time for clients

Heather Smith is a chartered accountant whose Brisbane consulting business sets up Xero for both businesses and accounting firms – including firms that need their Xero installations to work with the Xero app ecosystem. (She is also the author of Xero for Dummies.)  While searching for software that could cut repetitive management work for a client with many properties, she spotted Re-Leased.

Heather’s client became an early Re-Leased user in Australia, working with the developers on issues like local tax requirements. Once those were built, she says, “we put in trigger points and everything became automated”.

For the first time in years, her client took a holiday – and in Paris, at that.

Opening doors with clients

Some 2,300 kilometres away in Port Lincoln, Samantha Docking runs BOSS (Business Office Support Services), which offers accounting, finance, invoicing, HR and other services to businesses on the Eyre Peninsula. She discovered Xero six months after founding her business “and instantly fell in love with it,” she says. Many of her clients are trades and services firms who use job management software like ServiceM8.

A Xero Add-On of the Year for 2015, ServiceM8 delivers the familiar benefit of reducing repetitive work. But Samantha also likes the consistency of service it enables: it lets service staff know what materials they need before they start a job, and flag all the jobs needing to be done in a particular area that a staff member will be visiting.

Clients have adopted these add-on programs more and more readily as the years have passed, Samantha says – just as they did in the years after the introduction of Xero itself.

Samantha is enthusiastic about the way ServiceM8 and similar systems broaden her business horizons. “It’s not just crunching the numbers anymore,” she says. “You are looking past the books; you are looking at the business as a whole.” Her clients have plenty of business consultants available to them, she notes – but she has an edge, because she can deliver a business solution and follow through on any issues.

Finding the right solution

Heather, a vocal fan of the Xero app ecosystem, says the diversity of solutions means the challenge for accountants and bookkeepers is now to work out which one works best for each of their clients. That means sitting down with them and understanding their business workflows and the places where automation can help.

Armed with this insight, Heather says, she can then search for the best solution. She will check certification, read reviews on the Xero Marketplace, talk to existing users and solicit feedback in forums such as the  Xero Ecosystem Facebook group and the forum she started, the Cloud Accountants & Advisors Meetup, where she bounces ideas off her peers.

For one cafe operator, Heather identified the Deputy employee-management app, which lets cafe staff co-ordinate their shifts without forcing a manager into a painful ring-around. This leaves the cafe owner with a more effective and sophisticated scheduling solution than many large companies, and Deputy flows the payroll information into Xero. Samantha has a similar process, making heavy use of the Facebook groups to discuss prospective programs’ benefits with regular users. After the online vetting, she tries to get face-to-face with users; she recently flew to Adelaide to talk with butchers who have subscribed to a particular system. She thinks up tough problems to throw at systems early in her assessment, and looks at how real-world users solve them. She also stresses the importance of identifying add-ons that are easy to teach and to use.

Enriching your client’s Xero data

“The little, sensible techniques built into these solutions can have a massive impact on staff and cash flow,” Heather says. After several years of working within the ecosystem, she remains struck by the “massive relief” that such systems can bring to business owners. And these systems typically create an even richer and more current supply of data within Xero.

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