Andrew Van De Beek, the director of illumin8 Partners, joined Xero when it had less than 100,000 subscribers. While few people would have guessed Xero would surge to 1 million customers just five years later, Andrew saw the value early on.
“For me, it was all about the interconnectivity and the single-ledger approach,” he says. “I couldn’t imagine looking after a client’s data today and providing compliance and advisory services if the customer used a different platform to run his business. Xero eliminates unnecessary errors and saves me so much time in giving sound advice.”
Xero’s 1 million-subscriber milestone, reached this week, suggests Andrew may have been onto something when he abandoned desktop-based accounting software in 2012.
“It’s not even an apples-to-apples comparison. It’s more like a grapes-to-raisins, with Xero being the grape – nice and juicy and rich with data, and the competitors being perhaps the raisin,” he says.
Andrew says he’s seen the benefits of a cloud-based platform, whether working from his home near Melbourne or in more exotic locales. In 2016, he took a 17-night trip overseas with his wife and toddler daughter, and put Xero to the test.
“I said, ‘Let’s see if I can use a whole bunch of systems across seven locations in Sri Lanka and still keep in touch with my clients and team, and be productive.’”
For Andrew, that meant signing client tax returns on the beach, approving team expenses on a train, instant messaging his team, and holding a conference call from the top of a Sri Lankan rock fortress, Sigiriya.
And while it was clear that he needed to plan ahead and ensure strong Wi-Fi to make remote working a working reality, the results were eye-opening. “You really can be anywhere,” Andrew says.
Closer to home in Mount Eliza, Xero’s mobility helps Andrew ensure he gets enough family time. He works remotely at least a day a week. This allows him to see his daughter, now 3, and prepare for the arrival of his second child next month.
“I plan on making sure I enforce a rule of working one or two days a week outside the office,“ he says. Illumin8 customers also welcome the freedom a cloud-based platform offers.
“Ninety-nine per cent of our clients leave Illumin8 wide-eyed and excited when they realise the system is not limited to raising invoices and ratifying bank transactions. They start transforming their minds. They ask, ‘What else can I do within my business now?’”
Consequently those questions often lead customers to look farther afield.
“Xero on its own is incredibly useful, but if you use it together with its ecosystem of add-ons, you can create a whole new working reality,” says Andrew. “But you need to love what you do. A lot of people think, ‘I can work from an island – that’ll be awesome.’ But the only way you’ll sit down to work in a beautiful location is when you love what you do.”
Andrew’s cloud-system checklist:
- Slack: Illumin8 has moved from from HipChat across to Slack for real-time team messaging. We’ve found the integration and usability is far better.
- Futurli: We use this a fair bit with clients in full-day forecasting sessions. We use it to build out crunchboards for them, as well in shorter sessions for small, snippety stuff.
- Asana: I use it personally for to-do lists, as well as for project management of our marketing plans and business development.
- Class: My superannuation accountant loves Class. We hired an accountant who’s incredibly tech-oriented. This means that we’re as efficient and modern as possible, and so are our clients.
- Xero Practice Manager and Workpapers: These are Xero products that are slightly tweaked for accountants. I used them every day in Sri Lanka.
- Receipt Bank: This is a handy tool in understanding what was getting spent in the company. I could approve expenses on the other side of the world, which was great.
- Box.com: We use Box to share all our documents, and we continued that while I was overseas.
- DocuSign: I use this for anything that requires a signature. I was on a beach signing client tax returns on my phone!
- Zoom: I used Zoom for video conferencing. I stood on top of Sigiriya, which is like the Uluru (Ayers Rock) of Sri Lanka, having a video conference on my phone with my staff. It was phenomenal.
- NowInfinity: This enabled me to deal with our corporate secretarial services that we provide.