Xerocon has kicked off and it is huge. We have 1300 delegates gathered at The Dome in Sydney Olympic Park to hear the latest news about Xero and 82 exhibitors showing off their clever add-ons and services. Xero founder Rod Drury has come well prepared – he’s zipping around the conference on a skateboard.
After a quick welcome from comedian James O’Loghlin – who earned cheers from the audience with the news that there are rides on the dodgem cars outside the hall – it was down to business.
Rod Drury – the journey to a connected platform
“My there are a lot of you,” Rod said as he looked out over the 1300 delegates in the packed hall. “It wasn’t that long ago there were four people in a very smelly apartment in Wellington, and we had a Xero conference and there were only 25 people.”
Xero now has 900 staff and Rod praised their talents and enthusiasm. “I’m pretty sure if I applied for a job at Xero I wouldn’t get one – it’s very hard to get in,” he said.
He noted that Xero had the same sort of growth rates as some of the best companies in the world. It’s hit $100 million in revenue outside of the US, and this is because of its success in selling to small business, thanks to Xero’s relationships with accountants and bookkeepers. “Accounting software is the key to getting businesses onto all this advanced technology,” Rod said.
As Xero is getting to scale, it’s starting to see the positive impacts it’s having at a local and global level, in terms of making small businesses more efficient, which in turns mean they can hire more people and pay more tax – all good for the economy and society.
The Xero platform has been used to send 15 million invoices worth $33 billion – and the good news is it’s driven average days for the invoice to be paid from 43 days to just 31 days. “Online accounting is mandatory for your customers – they need that cash,” Rod said.
Xero has invested over $250 million in building its platform, with all the accounting tools, customer service and driving innovation.
Rod revealed Xero had added over 50,000 customers since April this year. And with a total of 334,000 customers, we’re a third of the way through to a million customers.
There are a couple of other innovations in the pipeline. Xero is working with Veda to expand its business verification service into seamless credit checking. And deeper data will help accelerate small business lending, and accountants could become part of the loan, using their customer relationship to drive down their risk profile, Rod said.
Alex Malley – revolutionising brand and culture
Alex Malley, Chief Executive, CPA Australia, talked about the power of disruption.
“It really is about being who you are, daring to be different,” Malley said. “You have a power and freedom that most human beings should have but don’t take.”
He also told how after taking over as chief executive of CPA Australia, he decided to do “something really different” to change perceptions of the organisation – so why not interview astronaut Neil Armstrong? No matter that he’d never granted an interview before. Malley flew to Beaver Creek Ohio and asked him – and he agreed.
“He did it because I asked him … because I made the effort to get in front of him,” he said. “Armstrong for my staff was about telling them I have the courage to fail, and I’m telling you that because I want you to do the same.”
He finished with a final piece of advice for the appreciative audience: “It’s so important that in your own personal lives that you ask to question you want to ask. Ask the question, test it.”
And on that note, lunchtime – back in a mo
And we’re back. Heading into the next session, Michael Ossipoff – Business as (un)usual
Michael Ossipoff , Director of Capabilty & Innovation, Telstra, asked what is business as usual today and what will it look like it tomorrow?
“The types of things you’re doing into the future are going to evolve,” Michael told the audience. “I suspect that for many of you, you’ll become business advisors. Small businesses look to you as a trusted guide.”
As more customers move onto cloud-based accounting, accountants and bookkeepers will form deeper relationships with them and become more valuable. They can also bring insights to small businesses on how to leverage technology.
He highlighted the potential of the cloud to enhance relationships with customers. “You transfer the power into the hands of the person you’re serving then all of a sudden you have a much more intimate relationship,” he said. “If you’re not using state of the art and someone else is that means you’re going to have a very unreasonable cost base.”
Chris Riddell – Digital Disruption: embrace the opportunity
He outlined how many of the world’s most innovative and successful companies have put customers at the heart of what they do: Apple with the App Store, Uber by letting customers book their own rides, and Netflix by providing video on demand, not when TV stations decide you can watch something.
There are three things businesses have to do to thrive and survive in this fast-changing environment:
1 – engage the crowd. Social networks will change the way consumers see your business
2 – share your knowledge. Businesses have so much intelligence and know how, the world wants to hear what you’ve got to say. Gen Y and Z want to know this.
3 – be a tech channel. As finance professionals, accountants and bookkeepers are the next technical channel. They have built up trust and can use their insights and analytics to guide customers through this new world.
We’re back after lunch, answering the question: Can bookkeepers continue to thrive?
Rod Drury believes they can.
Drury said Xero always thinks about how bookkeepers will be involved when it develops new features. “We love what small businesses do. We want to see business owners on the tools, but we always think about how they can involve bookkeepers,” he said. “We have full commitment to bookkeepers.”
Xero national sales director Trent Innes said bookkeepers are important to Xero because they’re so important to their clients.“We want you to grow because for us to be successful you have to be successful,” he said.
The best question of the session was from a bookkeeper who asked: Will you be doing Xero in Italy or Europe – because that’s where I want to live?
We’ll be back with more content tomorrow! In the meantime, check out our Developer Day wrap up.