It’s an overcast morning in London and everyone’s grabbing their lanyards and coffee ready for Xerocon UK 2013!
UK MD Gary is first up in front of an enormous screen to say hi to the crowd of 500 – big news to start – Xero UK is opening our second office today, right here in London! He’s invited everyone to call in for coffee any time.
CEO Rod has spent more time at Xerocon in the last month that with his family – loves it! Takes us through the technology trends: mobile, cloud and social. “Online accounting” isn’t really a technology category – it’s about connecting. It’s not desktop software on the web, it’s the opportunity for small businesses to connect to everything – accountants in the room are right in the thick of this – take the lead! Our goals are to make small business more productive, improve out partners income and lifestyle & build an exciting & purposeful community
Our biggest challenge is transforming the profession. We’re working with accountants and bookkeepers to make the transition to bundled, value-based pricing. We’re working with industry and banks as leaders, to challenge how things are done and working to make process with technology smarter – for example in banking, we should be able to provision bank feeds inside internet banking, upload batch payments and process online payments.
Rod gave an update on growing staff numbers, revenue, where we sit in the market – we’re building a world class company and there is so much opportunity. He took us through the platform we’re building – online accounting software, Practice Studio, Modern Practice, connected services (add-ons) – it all sits around the same data, the same ledger.
Go home and get all your service clients on Xero!
Gary gave a run down of where we’re at the UK and where we’re headed. We now have 1200 partners in the UK – more that our competitors! And we’ve just reached 30,000 paying customers here – 4 million invoices have been created by Xero customers in the UK over the last year. There are 5 million small business customers in the UK – still most using a spreadsheet.
Our pillars for the UK:
- Create an experience our customers love – we’re growing the team to support that – we have a great vision and product but it really matters that we have the great team to support our customers. Gary reckons he’s great at conducting job interviews after the number of people that have joined the team in the last year! 12,000 webinar sessions last year – we’re an educational business as much as we are a software business!
- Lead on innovation – why this feature over that? There is a massive tension there around plugging the gaps, but we’re unashamedly ground-breaking in our approach
- Champion the profession – our partners are key to drive the new role of the accountant and bookkeeper.
- We’re going to fix the UK banking system – seriously?! Yes we’re going to try! It’s very early day but the banks are slow to change but we’re starting to reach the right senior people at the right institutions – watch this space!
- Amazing add-on partners – 22 exhibiting at Xerocon today. Whether you find a client add-on or a practice add-on you can really make Xero sing by creating a platform that suits that business.
We need to finish the product. We’re investing to build accounting features and the horizontal accounting engine. We do take onboard the criticism that we’re not finished and features are missing – the journey is underway and we’re investing to get this stuff done.
Tokes, who has the tricky job of juggling what we’re building when, and shepherding all the feature requested, showed some features coming up:
- EC sales and purchases – adding some new tax rates, an EC Sales Report, an EC Sales (this year)
- Purchase orders – a detailed walk-through of the process (this year)
- Quotes – will be added to the sales dashboard & the main difference between an invoice or purchase order, it can be personalised – the start of a communication with a client. Send an online version of this to your clients. they can click to accept, you can click to send the invoice. Easy! (next year)
- Inventory – management of an inventory item list now, very light-weight, but stepping this up with codes, names, tags, pictures, purchase information (including new fields for preferred supplier) track quantity on hand and re-ordering. Lights turned up – bit of a show of hands for average cost vs FIFO and what do you call a ‘stock take’? (next year)
- Report packs – templates for partners to produce client reports – new report centre, date options, report settings, searching, layout, formulas.
Plenty of whooping in the next session – live demos from Craig (CTO) of the new Xero Touch native iPhone app coming soon (currently at 130,000 downloads of Xero Touch as it is today) and Xero files – upload pretty much anything anywhere in Xero – accounts, bank rec or your own folder structure.
Practice Studio roadmap
Tokes is back to introduce the Practice studio portfolio for partners.
- Practice Studio – will be a suite of apps: Practice manager (My Xero & WorkflowMax), Workpapers, reporting.
- Self-paced learning – to be introduced for partners and everyone in your practice with a way to monitor the progress of your staff on the journey to get your entire practice certified.
- Profiles – coming up we’re building out profiles in the Community so partners can promote themselves as qualified and knowledgeable, with a link to a full profile to promote your business.
Richard (GM Workpapers) started as an accounting partner with Xero almost 7 years ago, in beige pants and a tie but he’s now switched to jeans and a t-shirt to build some great software – Workpapers, to make compliance easier.
No more paper, being held up by clients taking their time to deliver their documents, desk-bound silo working … instead the vision is to collaborate more with clients, get documents from them on your schedule and create deep integration to reduce double handling and data entry.
So, some news for UK Partners: Workpapers is going live on October 2nd AND it’s FREE for Silver Partners & up.
Nick (UK Sales Manager) introduces a panel of Xero partners who are extensive users of cashbook and ledgers in their practices. The panel discussed what these plans are, what value they provide, what barriers and benefits – the general theme: these practice plans offer the key to quick compliance, the ability to collaborate on jobs that were traditionally done by one person in the practice and much better quality data.
Thanks the informative panelists – do get in touch with them if you’d like to hear more about their experience:
“A new kind of accountant” – rebranding
Denis Breen, of ProfitPal shared his journey from compliance accounting to the rebirth and rebranding of his practice to be a key driver in the business success of his clients, changing from ‘need’ clients to ‘want’ clients.
Loads of tips about PR, branding and how to be an advisor that’s seen as valuable: branding is not just a logo and a name – it’s the entire structure of your service and what you’re offering. Denis travels around with webcams in the boot of his car – he installs them on clients’ computers if they don’t have them and they’re on Skype all the time. What’s your point of differentiation? Is your website cluttered? Is it obvious in your name and on your website who you are and what you do? Build an amazing team, right in your team or in your extended team – use professional designers, marketers, advisors. Understand your verticals and the add-ons that can support those clients. Simplify your pricing and be transparent.
You’re changing your business: good tag line, colour, business plan, “show me the magic” – get started, nail your service offering, wow your clients one at a time, get templates for how to on-board them, give them takeaways from the first meeting, build a sales process.
A digital world
Stuart (Chief Revenue Officer) shared some views on how digital our world has become. Technology is creating a much faster rate of change. We revisit the mega technology trends that Rod spoke about earlier: mobile, cloud, social. The changes occurring in one generation have such an impact on business. The iPhone wasn’t around 6 years ago. Twitter is new. Kids are growing up with social media and not email. Some stats for the UK: 61% have mobile phones 94% use cloud services and 13 minutes of every hour is spent on social media. Work is no longer a place and technology in your homelife is merging into your worklife.
After some detailed instructions from Gary the crowd split into 3 to spend the afternoon in break-out sessions to deep dive into some different topics.
This case study session shared the story of a successful event run last week by accounting partner NWN Blue Squared and PR Agency Whiteoaks – the even was a networking gig for their clients who consist mostly of singers and creatives, where all the performers were Xero customers.
This was a quite technical live demonstration session (including some test questions!) on tips for how to get more out of Xero every day and the top queries received by our support team. The session covered VAT in Xero, fixed asset reconciliation, conversion, the role of the Enablement Team and the Partner Resources session. Please feel free to get in touch with our Customer Experience team any time! There’s also a thread started on the Xero Business Community in the Partner Discussion topic (login to see it if you’re a partner) where you can ask any questions or follow up on the tips and information shared today – Knowledge Breakout Session Q&A
Practice tools – panel introduced by Nick with Xero product experts Richard & Michael)
This session was a deeper dive into Practice Studio following on from the roadmap session earlier with a closer look at Workpapers and a deeper diver into the functionality of WorkflowMax as a practice management tool (reports & templates etc). Also a peek at the new look and feels that’s coming as WorkflowMax transitions into the Xero Practice Management product; small businesses will still use WorkflowMax as it is now as a job management add-on.
We welcomed these Xero Partners up on stage to share their thoughts on Xerocon and where their practices are at today:
Thoughts on Xerocon: so valuable to learn what’s coming up to get processes ready, excitement about the new features, fantastic to meet and talk to the add-on partners we spend so much time emailing, very comforting to see the software is still being developed especially the pulling in of the Practice Studio components, good to have a feeling of moving forward.
On where they’re at: their clients are beginning to be more interested and asking what they should be doing next, clients are reporting big time-savings with Xero and add-ons. On charging structure – majority on the panel is packaged/bundled offering ranging from 3 to 7 different service levels which includes Xero, add-ons and services.
Some learnings and approach since using Xero: more client training, just because it’s easy for you, a paper & envelope client won’t necessarily get it straight away; some do webinars, some do group and some do paid training on a client site – clients want a role with their accountant so it’s best if training comes from them, sometimes using Xero videos and webinars but typically our panel does the training themselves.
Takeaways: do more with add-ons, get bigger & better, get clients on to Xero and educate them; we’ve got lots of clients not on Xero who we need to move on; streamline our processes.
So great to hear how those who came along enjoyed it – thank you so much for coming and for your support of Xero!