With Xerocon London 2018 drawing near, we spoke to Grant Smith, partner at Armstrong Watson – the UK’s largest Xero platinum partner – about what Xerocon means to him and how it helped to change his practice for the better.
Going back to the beginning
Grant was introduced to online accounting back in 2011 when one of his clients came to him wanting to use Xero. As the diligent accountant he was (and still is, of course), Grant challenged himself to learn the new product. He was quickly sold on the benefits it could offer both his clients and his practice. Shortly after, he booked himself in for a Xero demo and signed on to the partner programme.
As a keen Xero partner beginning to grow through the ranks, Grant attended the first Xerocon London back in 2012. The event had just 230 attendees and was held at the ICAEW Chartered Accountants Hall. It’s a location he lovingly calls ‘the Hogwarts of Accountancy’.
The attendee count back then was just a drop in the ocean compared to the expected 3,000 attendees at Xerocon London 2018. But Grant said even with just five app partners back in 2012, the event was a game-changer. “I’d been to many conferences in my time, but this opened my eyes to what the future held for accountancy.”
He recalls hearing from Paul Bulpitt, co-founder of The Wow Company – and now Xero’s head of accounting – about the impact Xero had on his business. “Paul’s speech was so good he got a raucous standing ovation,” he said.
Grant was so exhilarated by his first Xerocon experience that he came away ready to make some serious changes within his practice. “There was no going back from here, I wanted to turn Armstrong Watson into a leading cloud accountancy in the UK.”
From there, Grant put his head down and took Armstrong Watson to Xero platinum partner in 2014. But it wasn’t enough – he wanted to take things to the next level. Grant wanted to be the UK’s leading accountancy practice. But his fellow partners, while interested in Xero, weren’t ready to commit to the change required to take their traditional practice digital.
Getting leadership on board
Grant was adamant about getting the senior people at Armstrong Watson excited and interested in Xero. And the best way he knew how was to bring them to Xerocon. “I managed to get the key management team to attend Xerocon London 2016 in Battersea,” Grant says.
“There was somewhere in the region of 1300 people there,” he says. “It’s just the buzz when you go in there. To go to an accounting software conference where there is just such excitement, and so many app partners around adding to the buzz of the event. Once my colleagues saw the bigger picture of Xero, the app partners and what some of the more forward-thinking tech firms were looking at doing, it really brought them forward to how the market was moving.”
“The benefit of attending Xerocon is not just the great speakers and breakout sessions. It’s getting to meet all the great app partners and learning how they can work with your accountancy firm and clients,” Grant says. “This was a great opportunity for my colleagues to really see how we could make the journey to a digital practice.”
Building a strategy for change
Job done, almost. From there, Grant and the leadership team at Armstrong Watson set to pull together a fully integrated strategy for the whole firm. Just over a year later they began transitioning more than 4,000 clients to Xero. Armstrong Watson is now proudly Xero’s largest Xero partner. And in 2017 they won the award for Accounting Partner of the Year at Xerocon London 2017.
“We’re starting to see really good efficiencies in accounts production – we’re spending far less time producing the accounts. And secondly, they’re getting done much sooner so that clients are really happy. In fact, I got a phone call from one of my clients recently asking me ‘What’s wrong, why are you calling me in?’ and I was like, ‘Well, we’ve just got your accounts done’, and he was really surprised that we’d got them done so soon after year-end,” he says.
“This year we’re seeing some really good time savings. Now that we’re on the second time around on what we call ‘the AW way’, we’re starting to see fantastic time savings.”
As for Making Tax Digital…
“We’re having clients starting to ask us ‘Well, what is this Making Tax Digital, what are your plans, what are you gonna do?’ and we’re like, ‘Well, it’s all done! All you need to do is give us your bank feeds, or we can set you up full version. It is literally just a push of a button to go’,” Grant says.
“We’ve worked out about 2000 clients are affected by MTD at this stage and every single one of them is now ready, whether they know it or not.”
About Xerocon London
Xerocon London 2018 is the UK’s most beautiful and innovative conference for cloud accounting leaders. Held at ExCel on November 14-15, it’s a truly unmissable event for today’s accounting practices.
Get two full days of inspirational speakers, product innovation and actionable content, as well as plenty of time to spend with app partners and your peers. The Xerocon party is an absolute highlight, and don’t miss your chance to celebrate the UK’s leading individuals and firms in the accounting industry at the Xero Awards.
Get your Xerocon London early bird tickets now – just £250 (excl. VAT) but only until 31 August 2018.
About Making Tax Digital
Making Tax Digital for business will come into effect from 1 April 2019 when all VAT-registered UK businesses above the VAT threshold will need to store digital records and submit quarterly returns to HMRC from MTD-compatible software. Getting ready now is key to your practice’s, and your clients’, success. Need help? Get in touch with your Xero account manager or touch base with our team: firstname.lastname@example.org