Australian bookkeeping company Befree recently entered the UK market with very little effort – owing to their technological savvy. Ben Surace, General Manager, talks about plugging gaps in the digital market, and where the business is headed next.
Being a paperless business, having the ability to work remotely is critical to how we do things. Throughout our journey we’ve always kept moving with the developments in the digital space, and expanding our knowledge and use of technology, apps, and add-ons along the way. Because we’re adaptable and open to change, we’ve always been quick to spot the gaps in the market brought about by advancing technology, which means we’re continually restructuring our business model to offer our clients more and better services. This approach has seen us develop a real global mindset as we start to grow our business in the UK and beyond.
A new model
Thanks to add-on apps like Hubdoc and Receipt Bank, we’ve recently been able to start offering a new ‘white-label model’, which is bookkeeping on behalf of accounting firms. Now, we go to accounting firms who think bookkeeping is too labour-intensive or low-value. We show them that they can still offer a full bookkeeping service simply by making use of Xero, Hubdoc, Receipt Bank and management reporting tools like Futrli. Using us to process the work, they can adopt and monetise a bookkeeping business model. The main benefit is that when it comes to tax preparation, they’re in control of the client’s work from end to end, they’ve got complete control over that client relationship, and they have all the data ready to go.
We used to receive packages of documents from clients by courier at our Sydney office, which we’d then scan and send over to India for processing. Hubdoc has helped us make our clients’ offices paperless and given them an easy way to share their information with us. One thing that’s been a real hit with our clients is being able to use their smartphone to snap a photo of those pesky, one-off invoices for small items like coffee and petrol at the time of purchase. With two screen touches, we’ve got all the information in front of us. For our firm, the main benefit of Hubdoc has been reduced time chasing documents and managing queries – that’s because it’s easy for clients to give us the source documents. It makes us more efficient, it’s made their lives easier, and in the case of an audit, all the source documents are right there in the file –another reason our accounting partners like it.
Gaps in the market
Using and connecting apps has enabled us to grow massively because it lets us put together solutions that fill gaps in the market. For example, using the management reporting software Futrli together with Xero means, suddenly, you’re not just a standard bookkeeper any more, you’re an advisor who can give your clients graphs, pie charts, and comparisons to industry averages. And you’re still just working from data that’s been entered into Xero. A lot of people think technology is taking jobs, but if you’re smart enough and quick enough, you can find gaps in the market and offer more services that use the technology.
Seamless query resolution
As a bookkeeping firm, one of our biggest issues is query resolution. Quite often, we’ll have a heap of transactions to reconcile without a source document. So we have to send queries to the client, and that can become cumbersome if we have to chase them for responses. We actually used to export each client’s transactions to a spreadsheet, add our queries, and send a spreadsheet to each of our 600 clients. It meant emails going back and forth and the risk of things getting missed. Now, with Xero Ask, the client can just log in and answer all of our queries in Xero.
With the right add-on apps, we don’t even have to be in the same country to win clients. We launched in the UK just by being Xero experts. In the past, we would have had to set up an office and become an expert in local tax services. Now we can offer our core services – reconciliation, payables, and payroll –seamlessly from anywhere. Next, we’re looking to push into Canada. With the combination of the apps we use – Xero, Hubdoc or Receipt Bank, and Futrli – we can offer a complete package without a lot of involvement with the client. We can partner with a Canadian accounting firm, do all the back-office processing, and then hand off to them for client liaison. These add-on apps have enabled us to increase our product base, plug into different services, and work with a variety of people all over the world. And it’s grown our business in a smart, efficient way.
Ben’s story is taken from the new issue of Partner Pages – a magazine of beautifully curated content, written by partners, for partners. Get your free copy at the Roadshow Australia 2019.